What the Blue Jays can learn from the Dodgers with big contract calls looming – .

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What the Blue Jays can learn from the Dodgers with big contract calls looming – .


TORONTO – If there is one baseball team that represents the modern ideal of sustained success in major markets, it is the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After winning eight straight NL West titles, they tied a franchise record with 106 wins in 2021 to lose the division to an even better Giants side led by their former general manager. Now the Dodgers are still alive in the NLCS, battling to advance Atlanta to their fourth World Series in the past five years.

With a payroll of $ 262 million, the Dodgers have spent all baseball teams this year. They keep legacy players like Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner. They’re acquiring trade superstars, most recently Mookie Betts, who signed a $ 365 million extension shortly after last year’s deal. And they do this while producing a constant flow of young impact players to balance their older core. The results are undeniable, and there is no apparent expiration date approaching.

What’s interesting for the Toronto Blue Jays – or any team serious about winning and willing to spend to make it happen – is how many quality players the Dodgers have let go. Featured in the 2021 playoffs are Joc Pederson and Kike Hernandez, two players who were central to winning the LA World Series a year ago. But really, Pederson and Hernandez are part of a bigger picture.

After 2019, the Dodgers let Hyun-Jin Ryu walk. After 2018, they are Manny Machado and Yasmani Grandal. After 2017, it was Yu Darvish. And after 2015, Zack Greinke. All in all, that’s a lot of talent established over a five-year period. With Corey Seager and Chris Taylor now on the brink of free agency, more departures may be on the way.

At the time, each of those losses was significant, but it’s a challenge Andrew Friedman’s front office was prepared to take on. Because the Dodgers overcame it, they’ve gone from the 2013 squad that included Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford to the present day without missing the playoffs once.

For the Blue Jays, other big expenses seem to come. Team president Mark Shapiro said Monday the payroll will continue to rise, and after a winter in which the Blue Jays signed George Springer on the verge of overtaking all baseball teams, it’s clear that these resources exist. Internally, we hope the team can improve their 91-71 record this year and reach the playoffs.

“We are expected to be a team capable of winning the World Series next year,” Shapiro said via Zoom.

After hugely productive seasons of young basics like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, the squad will be open to discussing long-term extensions, although those conversations are more likely to take place in practice. spring, once the off-season affair is almost over. And beyond their local nucleus, the Blue Jays will have an interest in re-signing their three best free agents: Steven Matz, Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien.

“Obviously we would love to sign these three guys again,” Shapiro said. “These are guys we’re going to market and compete for, but I don’t think you have to sign someone (specific) back. I am convinced that you must be better.

So yes, the Blue Jays love all three and will be ready to sign any of them. But history suggests they’ll be disciplined as well, sticking to their own player ratings instead of going for a signing approach at all costs.

And while the Dodgers regularly pay penalties for exceeding the MLB Competitive Balance Tax, Shapiro said the Blue Jays are not currently planning to exceed baseball’s CBT for the foreseeable future. At this point, budget discussions are underway with the owners of Rogers Communications, which also owns Sportsnet.

“It’s not something I’ve thought about a lot,” Shapiro said. “I’m not sure how we’re currently built, we have the income to support a team going through CBT. That’s not to say that the property doesn’t make a strategic decision at some point, but I do think we can continue to increase the payroll as we have already done to unprecedented levels. And our team and our fans and this city and this amazing market, which is a country, can help us keep raising it. “

According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Blue Jays spent $ 154 million on their 40-man payroll in 2021. Since the CBT threshold sits at $ 210 million, there is wiggle room, d ‘especially since the CBT could increase further under a new collective agreement.

But if the Blue Jays re-signed Ray and Semien, that flexibility could quickly disappear. And realistically, this isn’t the only winter the Blue Jays will have key players in free agency. As it stands, at least one member of the current core Blue Jays will arrive in free agency each year for the foreseeable future.

Not all will stay in Toronto. So if the Blue Jays are to maintain success like the Dodgers, they also need to become adept at deciding which players to lean on and which ones they will eventually let go.

“It’s about thinking about how you maintain a balanced roster, not only from an economic point of view but also from a talent point of view so that we don’t all age at the same time, so we have young people. players who continue to transition into that balance, ”Shapiro said. “We never think of any movement that we make – other than a one-year deal – in isolation. We always think about ‘what does this mean for our young players as they move up through the economic system? What will this mean for players releasing books in the years to come? “

Not asking these questions can consume crucial resources like payroll, roster spots and playing time. Five years ago, the Blue Jays experienced this by signing designated forward Kendrys Morales for a three-year $ 33 million contract ahead of his season at 34.

None of this argues for a Rays-type approach where all potentially expensive players are kicked out before they can talk about refereeing. There’s no need to see what Guerrero Jr. will look like in pinstripe four years from now. If he shows up for spring 2022 training motivated and fit, signing him for a lucrative extension could make sense as early as February or March. It could also be a good time to lock up Bichette, or José Berrios, or both.

In addition, the Blue Jays must add free agents. Spending big on someone like Semien or Carlos Correa or Corey Seager would probably open up more possibilities than it closed. Even beyond the biggest names, this might be a good time to explore adding short-term, high-cost players who can complete the core of the squad now without limiting options for the future.

And ultimately, it’s not a one-player offseason. The Blue Jays need multiple starting pitchers, multiple relievers, and at least one bat, ideally the one hitting from the left side. Without these reinforcements, the Blue Jays would take a step back as they intend to move forward. Yet even if they don’t make any promises on who they’ll sign, the Blue Jays seem determined to provide this roster with significant help.

It’s hard to predict exactly what that looks like, but at this rate, the Springer deal won’t be the Blue Jays’ last big deal. At the same time, not even the Dodgers retain all of their stars, so a team hesitant to fight CBT certainly won’t either.

There will be some tough decisions to be made and maybe some tough goodbyes. To reach and stay in the playoffs, this Blue Jays front office must strike a balance, pushing for a championship now while making sure this team can continue to win year after year.

“It’s an essential part of the job,” Shapiro said. “The definition of list management. “

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