An In-Depth Look at Blue Jays Payroll, 2008 - 2012

We have a lot of discussions here about the Blue Jays payroll, and there's a lot of strongly held opinions which can sometimes make it difficult to have a fact-based discussion on the subject. But beyond that, it strikes me that the information needed to really think about the payroll is lacking. The usual starting point is Cot's Contracts, which has information for each player on the roster, and has yearly charts tracking the opening day major league payroll. The problem is, this doesn't account for in-season payroll and personnel changes, which have been quite significant for the Jays the past couple years. Also, it doesn't include draft or international spending, which have also been large factors for our Jays. In this sense, I've found it frustrating to think about the payroll, much less how various parts of the payroll fit together or have changed over time. So in December, I set out to document all spending from 2008 to 2012 commitments. I ended up setting it aside, but got back to it amid renewed discussion about the 2012 payroll after the arb filings.

For purposes of comparison, I've divided team spending into 5 different categories, which can be seen in the summary table below. Beneath that, I've put a brief explanation of what each category includes and doesn't include, and how the spending numbers are calculated for the categories. After that, I've included another table showing at a high level the impact of the value of the Canadian dollar and inflation on the payroll from 2000 to 2011. At the end, I've got tables showing the detailed breakdown of each categories, as well as a few important notes. If any errors or omissions are spotted, please let me know in the comments.


Category Explanations

  • MLB Payroll - This category is the actual salary paid to players while on the Major League active roster. Only players who spent the entire year on the roster are included here, or if they had enough service time in the season to still get credited for a full year (Casey Janssen in 2011 is an example, he was sent down for a couple days). If players are traded, they are included if they spent their entire time with the Jays on the active roster, and their salaries are included on a proportional basis. Similarly, if a player with a guaranteed contract is released, the proportion of their salary while on the roster is included, the rest is put in the "Other Transactions" category. All signing bonuses are spread across the entire contract as salary, unless it is paid in specific year in which case the cash payout is used as the salary.
  • Other MLB - This category captures the MLB salaries earned by players who split time between MLB and the minors, again on a proportionate basis. So it's basically players earning the minimum, which is why the total is so small. As well, players with Major League service time on the 40 man who are assigned to the minors are entitled to be paid no less than 60% of their previous year's salary while in the minors, so I approximately account for this added amount, since it is an expense related to having a player on a Major League (40 man) contract. Note that only the added amount is estimated, not the total salary including the portion the player would otherwise be entitled to as a minor league salary (and in any event, this difference is immaterial the larger picture). So we're not counting minor league salaries, since this is quite small in the grand scheme and should be reasonably constant from year-to-year anyway.
  • Other Transactions - This includes salary paid to released players, amounts included in trades, and option buyouts (included in the year to which the option relates).
  • MLB Draft Bonuses - This one is pretty straightforward, the bonuses paid to players slected in the Rule 4 Amateur Draft. Of course, not all bonuses are disclosed, so I used the bonus total that Baseball America reports each year. In the appendix, I detail all bonuses I could find, and generally the numbers are very close but slightly under BA's numbers.
  • International & Amateur Free Agent Bonuses - Also quite straightforward in concept, the problem here is that many of these bonuses are not disclosed, so we don't know exactly how much is being spent. For example, the 2011 spending is almost certainly higher than the 2010 spending.

One note worth mentioning here rather than in the relevant categories in the Appendix. Adeiny Hechavarria's contract presented an odd case, because it's both a Major League contract with defined salaries, and also an international signing. Ultimately, I included the $4M bonus in the "International FA" category, and the annual payments in the "Other MLB" category since he has been assigned to the minors while earning it thus far.

Finally, I want to present the following table to show how inflation and the big changes in the value of the Canadian dollar have affected the bottom line from 2000 to 2011. This is obviously critically important for the ownership, which means we have to be aware of the impact and limiations these external factors can have on the payroll. I've previously posted this in the discussion of another thread, but I thought it's also relevant here in terms of thinking about the payroll on a longer-term basis. This is intended as an illustration, not to be exact, so for simplicity the payroll is just Cot's opening day payroll. The exchange rate used is the average monthly exchange rate during the baseball season, and the inflation rate used is US CPI:

Appendices: Detailed Breakdowns of Each Category

MLB Payroll

For 2012, the numbers for Brandon Morrow and Casey Janssen reflect the midpoint of the filing numbers. I have made some assumptions about who will make the Opening Day roster, generally in line with what management has hinted. Either way, it's fairly immaterial since it's almost invariably a player making near the minimum would be displacing a similarly salaried player.

Other MLB


Other Transactions


For the Rivera trade, I assumed that the Jays were on the hook for the entire remianing salary, less the pro-rata portion of the MLB minimum.

MLB Draft Bonuses


Draftees who signed but for whom there is no public information available about their bonus are omitted.

International & Amateur Free Agent Bonuses


This is one of the toughest categories to evaluate, since many times bonuses aren't disclosed. Unlike, with the draftees above, I left those with undisclosed bonuses on the list, because even the raw numbers of signees are instructive.

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