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Mark Shapiro talks about his contract, support from ownership on free agency, the Vancouver Canadians, and more!

Mark Shapiro hosted a media call on Wednesday to speak about a variety of Blue Jays-related topics, which was nicely summed by Sportsnet’s Arden Zwelling in a Twitter thread. I’ll talk about the highlights from the call…

On his contract…

Shapiro joined the Blue Jays back in 2015 after the team made the playoffs for the first time in over two decades. That five-year contract is now coming to an end. Though he didn’t offer any specific details, it does seem as though Shapiro and the Blue Jays will reach a new deal for him to remain the organization’s President and CEO.

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“I want to be here,” Shapiro said. “I want to finish the job.” Addressing the ongoing partnership between him and the organization, Shapiro said, “I’d expect that’s going to continue to happen.”

Anything can happen, of course, but it’s difficult to imagine that the Blue Jays would move in a different direction at this point. Shapiro has slogged through the difficult part of the organization’s rebuild over the past few years and it appears as though the team is finally ready to turn a corner.

Beyond rebuilding a strong core of young talent and restocking the organization’s farm system, Shapiro has also done plenty of worthwhile behind the scenes work, like pushing for the team’s complex in Dunedin to get completely revamped and bringing the Blue Jays into the future when it comes to player development strategy.

I would guess that we see Shapiro and the Blue Jays reach a new five-year goal in which winning a World Series is explicitly mentioned as the objective during the tenure of the contract.

On next year’s budget and free agency…

The team’s payroll has yet to be decided for the 2021 season, Shapiro said, but he did add that the Blue Jays intend to be active in free agency this winter.

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He said that ownership has given “strong support and encouragement to go out and pursue free agents, which pretty much lines right up with what Ross Atkins said a few weeks ago. Atkins, of course, said that the team is open to adding a super-impact player this off-season, whether that’s through free agency or trade.

As of right now, the Blue Jays have pretty clean books. The only money they have committed to next year at this moment is $20 million for Hyun Jin Ryu, $12 million for Tanner Roark, $10.3 million for Randal Grichuk, $3.9 million for Lourdes Gurriel, $3.175 million for Shun Yamaguchi, and Troy Tulowitzki’s $4 million buyout.

We could see the team make another Ryu-esque splash or maybe we see a big trade. Who knows. But I doubt the team stands pat. Shapiro mentioned “defence and strike-throwing” as two priorities to improve the team.

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On the Vancouver Canadians…

Back on Monday, word came out that the Vancouver Canadians would no longer be a Blue Jays’ affiliate and that they would be affiliating with the Oakland Athletics.

My assumption was that this was due to Major League Baseball’s plan to kill short-season ball. One of the Blue Jays’ short-season rookie league affiliates, the Bluefield Blue Jays, has already been slashed, so the Canadians were kind of in flux. Unless the Jays parted ways with New Hampshire or Lansing, there wouldn’t be space to maintain Vancouver as an affiliate.

On Wednesday, Shapiro said that the reports about the Canadians are “not factual and inaccurate.” He said that the organization has not yet heard word on what MLB’s plans are for affiliates or minor-league ball.

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But, knowing what we know about Rob Manfred’s big-picture MiLB slashing plan, it does seem inevitable that short-season ball will be killed and replaced with more hands-on, instructional, training site style development. If/when that happens, it’s difficult to imagine Vancouver being one of Toronto’s four full-season affiliates due to geography.

Another thing to consider is that the Canada-U.S. border being closed might make it impossible for the Canadians to function for anyone in any capacity as an affiliate in 2021.

On playing in Toronto in 2021…

Shapiro said that the Blue Jays don’t yet know where they’ll be playing in 2021 but that there’s reason to be optimistic that they can play at home in Toronto.

I have no idea where that optimism comes from as the Canada-U.S. border is still closed and there’s really no end for the COVID-19 pandemic in sight. Things are an unmitigated disaster down south so it’s difficult to imagine that the Canadian government will feel differently in 2021 about letting baseball players who are travelling around the United States into Canada for six months.

Maybe I’m being pessimistic about the whole thing. I just have a hard time seeing things cleared up enough by April for the Jays to play in Toronto. Maybe later in the season.