Stating the Obvious: 2014 and 2015 are Important

Brad White

When I'm feeling bored I have a habit of looking around at salary commitments of different sports teams and windows of opportunity for certain organizations. It just so happened that I came across a great graph of future salary obligations on MLB Trade Rumors today that would definitely be classified as "Payroll Porn". The article is linked here, but if you'd just like to see the visual representation then here it is:

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via rotoauthority.blogs.com

As you can see above, the Blue Jays have the 5th highest payroll obligation for 2015, while they only place 14th when the next decade of salary commitments are considered. This summarizes quite clearly that a cliff is coming and it's approximately 720 days before the team could potentially fall off of it. While this shouldn't create any immediate panic in the fan base it's a little disconcerting to know that there's a possibility this team goes into a rebuilding mode in 2016. By clearing out a large portion of the farm system last winter, the team is heavily in a win-now approach. This commitment to making the team an immediate contender is a 360° turn from what Alex Anthopoulos originally planned to do when he was hired as the General Manager of the team, but the process was accelerated by a perceived opportunity in the division.

A large portion of Toronto's prospects have ETA's that are beyond 2015 and there's a chance that a few off-seasons of relative inactivity result in an all too familiar rebuild for the only baseball team north of the border. It seems like a good time to take stock of where this team is going to stand in the next few years to highlight what type of task the front office has in front of them.

Starting Pitching

  1. R.A. Dickey: Signed through 2015 with a 2016 club option ($12 million).
  2. Mark Buehrle: Signed through 2015.
  3. Brandon Morrow: Signed through 2014 with a 2015 club option ($10 million).
  4. Ricky Romero: Signed through 2015 with a 2016 club option ($13.1 million).
  5. J.A. Happ: Signed through 2014 with a 2015 club option ($6.7 million).
  6. Esmil Rogers: Arbitration 2014 through 2016.
As you can, this particular part of the Blue Jays roster will be nearly bare after the next couple of seasons. There's a chance R.A. Dickey is still here in 2016 and he'll be joined by Esmil Rogers, but Alex Anthopoulos has a lot of work to do for this starting rotation to be above average even before the 2014 season begins. The bullpen is a part of a team that can be easily retooled and replaced and it seems that might be one of Alex Anthopoulos' strengths, so we'll ignore that area in this post.

Infield

  1. Brett Lawrie: Arbitration 2015 through 2017.
  2. Jose Reyes: Signed through 2017 with a 2018 club option ($22 million).
  3. Ryan Goins: No significant service time.
  4. Maicer Izturis: Signed through 2015 with a 2016 club option ($3 million).
  5. Edwin Encarnacion: Signed through 2015 with a 2016 club option ($10 million).
  6. Adam Lind: Club options in 2015 ($7.5 million) and 2016 ($8 million).
  7. J.P. Arencibia: Arbitration 2014 through 2016.
  8. Josh Thole: Signed through 2014 with a 2015 club option.
The left side of the infield should be an asset for the organization for years to come, but the right side could become very bare if left unattended. If Ryan Goins is the answer at second base, then the situation with regards to the infield is not too bad. It seems unlikely that Arencibia lasts the three years of his arbitration eligibility, so that's another immediate area of need.

Outfield

  1. Jose Bautista: Signed through 2015 with 2016 club option ($14 million).
  2. Colby Rasmus: Arbitration for 2014.
  3. Anthony Gose: Pre-arbitration.
  4. Melky Cabrera: Signed through 2014.
The outfield is an interesting situation, as there's a chance that the team has a completely different group of three players out there in 2016. If you prefer a glass half full approach, Colby Rasmus, Anthony Gose, and Jose Bautista may all run out of the dugout together on opening day of 2016. It remains to seen how this area of the Blue Jays will play out.

That's the current obligations of the Blue Jays and there's two different ways to look at the situation. On one side of the coin, the team may have a completely new roster in 2016 and it could possibly be the beginning of another long rebuild. On the flip side, there's an immense amount of room for Alex Anthopoulos to work some magic down the road as the Blue Jays are only committed for $27.60 million in 2016. The next two years will be extremely important in determining what direction the organization takes in the future and whether Alex Anthopoulos will still be around at the end of it all.

Obviously some prospects are close to contributing, but many others such as Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna are numerous years away from helping out the big league squad. The 2015 team will have a large amount of players that are in their contract years and when the season ends the payroll situation will drastically change with the "pillars" of the team departing as you can see in the pie chart:


What do you fine folks have to say about the payroll situation the Blue Jays find themselves in? The majority of the team's contracts all expiring at the same time was an issue that was discussed last off-season and it definitely won't be a topic that goes away for a while.
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