Jeff Blair Says Edward Rogers Had a Hand In the Bautista Deal, and That’s Probably a Good Thing

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Truly fascinating stuff today from Jeff Blair’s radio show on the Fan 590, as he says he’s heard that Edward Rogers expanded the Blue Jays’ budget in order to get the José Bautista deal done.

Not only that, he speaks about a genuine friendship between the scion and Mark Shapiro, which certainly sounds on the surface like it could be beneficial to the Blue Jays. If you believe it…

“What really makes me feel better about this deal is I’m hearing, and I trust the people I hear this from, that Edward Rogers gave Mark Shapiro additional money to get the Bautista deal done — knowing full well the team still needs to address the bullpen and backup catcher, effectively removing the last impediment to putting the Bautista contract to rest,” Blair explained on Wednesday’s show. “And you know what? That jibes with what I’ve heard elsewhere: that the Blue Jays’ final payroll number is perhaps a little more fluid than most believe. I’m not talking, $20, $25, $30 million more fluid, but I’m talking an understanding that the spigot doesn’t necessarily get turned off the second the first pitch of the regular season is thrown. And that comes down to the amount of personal trust between Shapiro and Rogers.”

Many fans will, of course, be quick to raise eyebrows at a reporter on a Rogers-owned station talking about the Rogers-owned Blue Jays and the benevolent Edward Rogers. Many of those fans will also undoubtedly remember the escapades of “Bunglefuck Eddie,” who allowed the club’s pursuit of Orioles GM Dan Duquette to become far too public, and reportedly asked one of Paul Beeston’s best friends in the game, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf — the Dorf! — for permission to speak to Ken Williams about potentially being the replacement for Beeston, before anybody told Beeston he was being shoved out the door.

Nobody wants meddling ownership, or owners making baseball decisions. But we need only look down the 401 and across the Ambassador Bridge to Detroit to see how an engaged owner with a genuine interest in winning can be a very beneficial thing for a club.

And when your family name is the brand that’s at stake, it makes a whole lot of sense to be personally invested in the club’s success. Especially if you’re a fan. Especially if you want to go to rich guy parties and golf courses and not get dogged about the state of your team.

It makes a whole lot of sense, too, for Mark Shapiro — who, despite his many years in the less-than-glamorous Cleveland market, seems very much of that world in a way that Alex Anthopoulos surely wasn’t and that Beeston hadn’t been for a generation — to cultivate that relationship.

“If you’ve listened to this show for the past couple of months, you’ve probably heard Stephen Brunt refer on several occasion as to how Edward Rogers has quietly started to increase his engagement in the day-to-day activities of the Toronto Blue Jays,” said Blair earlier in Wednesday’s show (you can hear the clip here). “I mean, I’ve heard Brunt talk about the friendship, personal and professional, between Edward Rogers and Mark Shapiro, and our feeling that having the kind of frank, open relationship [note: LOL] that doesn’t necessarily require a full-fledged board meeting to deal with every issue is an asset in decision-making.”

Potential for Rogers spin be damned, I tend to agree.

We sure as hell have tried it the other way and found it painfully frustrating.

If Edward Rogers holds the keys to the budget, and Edward Rogers is invested, personally, in the Blue Jays’ success, and Edward Rogers allows that Mark Shapiro has all the say on baseball decisions (and that he has none), it can do nothing but good for the Blue Jays. That said, I’ve heard it whispered that the budget the Jays are working with is the one that Shapiro asked for and that he possibly could have had more — which is probably more understandable than you think; you don’t rush to spend all your political capital pushing for 2017 dollars after the first season of what you aim to be a very long-term project — so the fact that Rogers could have done this may be unique to this winter’s circumstance alone.

If he really did do it.

The proof of that will come next. The proof of that will hopefully come in not just the obviously needed reliever and backup catcher, but with a move to fix the untenable situation in left field, where a player who has failed as yet to hit his way out of Buffalo and is coming off a down year there, Dalton Pompey, currently looks like the club’s best option to play against right-handed pitching. (Despite Upton and Carrera hitting from opposite sides of the plate, they are not an acceptable platoon because of Carrera’s reverse split and his ugly numbers against right-handed pitching).

The players are still available out there to make this situation much better. And while I remain skeptical that they’ll do it, or that ownership has the wherewithal to let them, seriously! They really should!

I’m reminded of something I came across yesterday while going over stuff related to José Bautista’s new deal. In a piece last March about José’s comments to Peter Gammons, which came as talk of a possible mega-extension swirled, I wrote this piece of clear-headed truth:

I wouldn’t even get upset if the Jays curbed their spending just under the luxury tax threshold. I bet a whole lot of fans wouldn’t, either. Maybe that’s easy to say now, when it’s just a fantasy. Maybe ownership would worry about fans getting that inch and then braying for another mile. But you have a natural budget ceiling right there that can be used as a reasonably understandable pretext for not spending more — as opposed to the completely artificial and bullshit one that’s now in place. Yeah, it’s a lot of money, especially considering the Canadian dollar and the fact that this club ran just a $70-million payroll as recently as 2011, but it would be enormous for the team and far more defensible than what they currently do.

Hear, hear, me!

Now let’s hope — if any of this stuff Blair is saying is really true — that young Edward is listening and has power within the organization such that, if not today, at least one day we can make this insanely sensible idea a reality. Better yet: let’s hope it’s already a reality and legit 2017 reinforcements are still to come. (I just might not hold my breath on that last bit.)