The Blue Jays and GM Alex Anthopoulos have chosen an inexorable path for the franchise in 2013. It is to spend money, to spend money wisely, to try and compete with the big boys for a post-season berth in MLB. What is surprising, but was intuitively necessary for ownership, is that the attendance did not suggest this bump was coming. But what management understood was that a skeptical fan-base was ready to jump ship if Rogers showed it did not want to compete right now. There's no turning back.
The 12-player deal with the Miami Marlins, when completed, will bring them two starting pitchers, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle; a dynamic leadoff hitter and shortstop, Jose Reyes; a speedy utility man, Emilio Bonifacio, and an experienced backup catcher, John Buck. It has added a quick $41.25 million to payroll for 2013 and $163.75 in guaranteed salary for 10 seasons, plus an option. Those payroll numbers do not even include the arbitration-eligible Bonifacio, who earned $2.2 million with the Fish in 2012.
So, how did the Jays actually reach this point of ballsy enlightenment in their franchise history? Consider these major contributors to this monumental moment wherein Anthopoulos was able to pull the trigger on the highest volume deal in Jays history -- with a chance to have the biggest impact. Three major contributors to the decision are Jose Bautista, Miami manager Mike Redmond and Blue Jays fans.
1-Bautista. Ever since Anthopoulos took a chance against the advice of many and signed the 2010 major-league home run champ to a five-year deal, the GM has worked with his star right fielder to guarantee the franchise is moving forward, not tagged as rebuilding. Mr. Bats serves as Anthopoulos' GM conscience. If the fourth year GM wore an inspirational bracelet it might read W.W.J.D. In this case, “What would Jose Do.” Before Bautista it was Vernon Wells and when Alex started as GM it was Roy Halladay.
In this case, the Bautista influence on the Marlins deal doubles up, because after the injury to their star player, after the team limped home with 73 wins, after a leadership void in the clubhouse was exposed during Joey Bats absence, after the organization was embarrassed by Yunel Escobar's eye-black and John Farrell's dream of a dream job, the Jays realized that if they did not act right here, right now, that the next knock on the GM's office door might be Bautista asking out. Anthopoulos and Bautista had promised each other they would win during his tenure and the GM tries to be a man of his word.
2-Redmond. The first question that popped up when Redmond was given permission to interview with the Marlins was, “Why?” I remember three years ago, before Redmond officially retired as a player, Anthopoulos talked about “great young baseball minds” and in the course of that chat mentioned the former MLB backup catcher. When Redmond retired, he was quickly hired by the Jays to handle A-Lansing. Last year it became A-Dunedin. It seemed that logically Redmond would have been a candidate for the Jays. Instead he was gift-wrapped and handed over to the Marlins. Why?
The unintentional method to Anthopoulos' madness shines through with this trade. The Redmond influence was clear in the package of prospects the Marlins settled on in the deal. Outfielder Jake Marisnick played for Redmond at Dunedin. Justin Nicolino pitched for him late in 2011 and because the minor league clubs train together at the Mattick Complex, Redmond was able to see a lot of Nicolino, plus Adeiny Hechavarria and Anthony DeSclafani, who debuted at Lansing in '12. The deal would not have been made without the influence of Redmond, very familiar with the players coming back in return.
3-The Jays fans. The fan-base in the first four months of the regular season, through the trade deadline, showed Rogers careful ownership, president Paul Beeston and Anthopoulos what was possible with a winner. Don't underestimate the influence of the Jays' fans on this deal, a reflection of their support the first seven months of 2012.
The big factors were the return to the World Series roots in terms of logos and colours, which became a clear hit with fans. There were the smart offerings of savvy blog sites, the positive TV and radio numbers, the youthful enthusiasm clearly reflected on early season road trips, from Cleveland to Milwaukee to Boston, to Seattle, plus all of the visual and verbal feedback at the Rogers Centre. The clear enthusiasm showed Jays Nation was ready for a winner, that under the right circumstances the support was there.
Recall that Beeston had head-scratchingly said last December that when the fans came back the money would be spent. It made no sense. Well, until the injuries and the collapse in August and September, the fans were there if anyone had cared to notice. A wise man once said the closest emotions are love and hate. Jays' fans obviously hated the final two months, but at least they cared. Jays' management noticed and understood.
The following Jays' payroll numbers are compiled using the authoritative site, Cot's Baseball Contracts. This is the most expensive roster ever put together by the Jays, topping the $97,983,900 in 2008, the penultimate season of former GM J.P. Ricciardi. That year, the Jays were 86-76, but ownership was expecting more and forced Ricciardi to slash payroll to $80 million in '09. He did not react well and was gone by the final weekend.
How far ahead of any payroll in the 37-year history of the Blue Jays' franchise is this group? Already, the 2013 payroll for 15 players stands at $100.6 million in guaranteed salary. In terms of futures, the Jays are on the hook for $300.9 million in salary to those same 15 players. Here's the payroll in descending order for 2013. That first number is followed by guaranteed years and guaranteed money.
Bautista $14 million; 3 years-$43M. Johnson $13.75 million. Buehrle $11 million; 3 years-$48M. Reyes $10 million; 5 years-$96M. Edwin Encarnacion $8 million; 3 years-$29M. Brandon Morrow $8 million; 2 years-$17M. Ricky Romero $7.5 million; 3 years-$23.1M. Buck $6.5 million. Adam Lind $5.15 million; 1 year-$7.15M (option buyouts).
Casey Janssen $3.9 million. Maicer Izturis $3 million; 3 years-$10M. Darren Oliver $3 million. Sergio Santos $2.75 million; 2 years-$8.75M. Rajai Davis $2.5 million. Dustin McGowan $1.5 million; 2 years-$3.5M.
Add to that committed payroll, key arbitration-eligibles Bonifacio, Colby Rasmus and J.A. Happ who will by the time they settle combine for about $12 million and the 2013 payroll already stands at $112 million for 18 players, even with the knowledge that the injured McGowan and Santos will likely not open the season in the majors.
And it says here the Jays are not done dealing yet. Ideally, they could still use a strong bat in the outfield and have not settled on a starting second baseman.
Bonifacio is a Mike McCoy type, times two, while Izturis could be considered a younger, more complete Omar Vizquel or John McDonald. Maybe another MLB team covets one year of Josh Johnson so much so that they will make it worth Anthopoulos' while in MLB talent. But this Marlins deal is a great start and has energized the fanbase at a time when they were likely deciding how to spend any future entertainment dollars.