News and Notes: Mark Shapiro talks about the budget and jersey ads, Winter Meetings Transactions heat up, and more

Cam Lewis
1 year ago
We’re into the final day of Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings in San Diego and things are really starting to move now that Aaron Judge, the biggest name on the open market, has signed with the New York Yankees.
Before getting into who’s going where and what it all means, let’s quickly go through what Mark Shapiro talked about with the media on Tuesday afternoon. Though there had been some thought that the Blue Jays would operate with the competitive balance threshold being essentially their salary cap ceiling, Shapiro said that won’t be the case…
“The payroll is rising in a way that corresponds with our team, our success and our expectation, which is to be a championship-caliber team,” Shapiro said. “We’re not a team that functions without a budget. Every team has one, so we’ve certainly got limits, but the support and the growth of that payroll is unprecedented in the history of the franchise, and it continues to be very strong from ownership.
“[The CBT] is not an obstacle for us. It will not limit us. We’ll have a budget, and a budget that we’ll limit to, but the CBT is not going to be what sets our budget, managing around that.”
When you add all of Toronto’s commitments together along with what they’re projected to give players in arbitration, they’re already starting to approach a $200 million payroll, so going above the $233 million CBT figure might be inevitable if the Blue Jays want to make any significant additions to their roster.
The priority for the Blue Jays right now is adding to their pitching staff, as they have Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, and Jose Berrios pencilled into the top three spots in their starting rotation and then a whole bunch of question marks after that. The free-agent options to fill those other two spots are starting to disappear, as Andrew Heaney has signed with the Texas Rangers, Taijuan Walker has signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, Jameson Taillon has signed with the Chicago Cubs, and Jose Quintana has signed with the New York Mets.
The top name left on the starting pitching market is Carlos Rodon, who’s coming off of an excellent season with the San Francisco Giants. The Giants made a big push to sign Aaron Judge but he wound up sticking around in New York. They’ll now turn their attention elsewhere, which could involve re-signing Rodon or perhaps adding a big-name position player, such as Brandon Nimmo.
Beyond Rodon, there’s also Kodai Senga, a pitcher from Japan who doesn’t have to go through the posting system, Chris Bassitt, who the Blue Jays apparently couldn’t gain any traction with, Nate Eovaldi, an arm who’s very familiar with the American League East, and Ross Stripling, who should be in line for a very nice payday given the season he’s coming off of.
The Blue Jays have apparently come close on a few free agents but they ultimately opted to go elsewhere. They were in the mix for closer Kenley Jansen, who signed a two-year, $32 million deal with the Boston Red Sox, and Ben Nicholson-Smith reported that they offered Heaney more money than he was offered by the Rangers.
Based on Shapiro’s comments about the CBT and the reports that the Blue Jays are in the mix for a good chunk of the names out there in free agency this winter, it seems that the money is there for the team to make additions. Whether they can actually find a match and pull the trigger is another question. This front office has spent money three winters in a row but things are way more competitive right now as more and more teams are actually trying to win.
Another market that’s quickly moving around the Blue Jays is the market for outfielders. The goal for Toronto this winter is to replace Teoscar Hernandez’s production in the middle of the lineup and also find a fielder strong enough defensively so that George Springer can move over to right.
Cody Bellinger, a player who had been linked to the Blue Jays since he was non-tendered by the L.A. Dodgers has inked a one-year, $17.5 million deal to join the Cubs, so that’s one option gone. Another wide-discussed avenue for the Blue Jays to add an outfielder via trade might also be closed now as the St. Louis Cardinals have signed the top free-agent catcher on the market…
The Blue Jays and Cardinals appeared to be ideal trade partners, as St. Louis was in need of a catcher to take the torch from Yadier Molina, who retired following the 2022 season. The thought was that the Blue Jays could move one of their three catchers for an outfielder such as Lars Nootbaar or Dylan Carlson, but that seems unlikely now that they’ve signed Contreras.
Circling back to Shapiro, another interesting note from yesterday is that the Blue Jays are actively seeking a jersey advertisement sponsor…
My terrible photoshop in the header image shows a Blue Jays jersey with a seemingly inevitable Rogers patch on the chest but Shapiro said that they’re looking to have the advertisement go on the sleeve. This will surely piss a lot of fans off but it’s the reality of the business. The Blue Jays aren’t going to miss the opportunity to add a significant revenue stream, especially as ownership is opening up its wallet to improve the team during its competitive window.


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