Toronto Blue Jays, Aaron Sanchez & Business Being Business


Jays From the Couch looks into the recent drama regarding the Toronto Blue Jays handling of Aaron Sanchez’ 2017 salary.


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The Toronto Blue Jays made some ripples in the baseball world when news came out about their handling of Aaron Sanchez‘ 2017 salary. Rather than hearing that a multi-year deal was struck and the fanbase celebrating, we’d heard that there was some tension and the righty will be making the league minimum this coming season.


Like other teams have done for their players, the club can offer more money for a player who has had success the previous year, even though they are not obligated to do so. In fact, the Blue Jays do not have to offer Sanchez more than league minimum until he hits arbitration. Even then, they are not obligated to offer more than what an arbitrator decides. Now, we’ve seen other teams fork over extra dough to reward their superstar young talent. The Cubs recently rewarded 2015 Rookie of the Year and 2016 MVP, Kris Bryant, by giving him $1.05 M for this coming season. As a pre-arbitration player, it is a sign of respect for the massive showings the player demonstrated. Interestingly enough, Bryant is represented by Scott Boras.


Now, Sanchez certainly had a coming out party in 2016, but we can’t say it was on par with the kind of showing that Bryant has put forth. So, should we, or more to the point- he, the agent, expect to see a similar raise for Sanchez? Well, he took to the airwaves (story via Shi Davidi) to have his voice heard, which was heavy on criticism. Boras claimed:


“They offered him a very small raise above the minimum, which is not commensurate to his performance peers. Some teams have very low payment standards but they say if you renew we understand, but you still keep the money we’re giving you. Toronto is so rigid, they not only have a very antiquated or substandard policy compared to the other teams for extraordinary performance, but if you don’t accept what that low standard is, they then have the poison pill of saying, you get paid the minimum. It’s the harshest treatment in baseball that any club could provide for a player. That’s why few teams have such a policy.”


Those are some pretty bold statements. Ross Atkins replied in turn:


“This is a policy that was put in place 10 years ago. I don’t see it as punitive, we don’t see it as punitive because it’s your choice to not accept the higher number. We focus on communication, resources, giving Aaron the best chance to be everything he can be and making sure we’re breaking down every possible barrier. There are times when there are disagreements and typically they’re about things like this, about areas of compensation. We try to be consistent and fair and not break precedents and not break policy. From our perspective, we’ll continue to focus on the relationship in terms of how we provide the best resources possible for him in terms of getting better.”


The first reaction to this might be to grab that low hanging “Rogers is cheap” fruit and blame the team for not forking over to pay one of the brighter starters in baseball. And, maybe there is something to that. But, let’s be honest, Sanchez, while a great talent, has not had Bryant-like seasons. He was good, but if Bryant saw a shade over $1M, how much more did Boras expect Sanchez to get? If we are to believe both parties, the club did offer slightly more than the minimum, but it would appear it was not enough.


And, let’s also be fair, here. If the Toronto Blue Jays are offering more money, which they do not have to do, the player does indeed have the choice to accept it. He can say, ‘No, I think I deserve more than that.’ The Blue Jays can agree, or not. But, if you’re operating a club, you have to be careful where you throw money around. You could argue that a couple hundred thousand dollars isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things, and would be a nice gesture. But, baseball is a business and gestures only go so far. At the end of the day, gestures are dollars and cents. Spending for the sake of spending doesn’t seem to match the Ross Atkins philosophy. Instead, the club feels it is helping Sanchez in other ways- by helping him improve, train, etc to eventually cash in. Of course, the cynics will say the club will be benefiting from that process, so how genuine is that gesture?


Here is the nature of things: it is a business. We’ve seen the club go to arbitration over amounts that would be close to the amount we can assume is the difference in the offer to Sanchez. They aren’t going to throw money at players they don’t have to throw to. They have an idea of how to operate reasonably and they’ll stick to it. They’ll increase Sanchez’ salary, but not to the heights Boras wishes. It is cold, but it is how business is done. If the player rejects the raise, he can make the minimum. It is not like that outcome would be a surprise. Boras would certainly have advised his client of this.


Which brings us to the other side of the business- the agent. Let’s all agree that an agent’s job is to seek every last penny for his client. So, it should come as no surprise that Boras let into the Blue Jays on this. From his perspective, setting aside his obvious motives, he does have a point, though. Firstly, if the Blue Jays want to keep things harmonious with Sanchez, why not just fork over a couple hundred K and a handshake? It is not a bank breaking amount to show a player how much you appreciate what they’ve done for your team. Secondly, why is Atkins quoting a 10 yr old policy when he and club president, Mark Shapiro, have not even been in town for a third of that? Why are they clinging to a policy that they didn’t make? They make decisions, they can break old policies, especially ones that interfere with future dealings.


Some will argue that treating a star like Sanchez like this will be remembered in every other negotiation from here on out, including his free agency in 2021, where he will be under 30 yrs old and should have several years to hang his hat on. Or, what if they want to try and lock him up early to buy out some of the free agent years? A little friendly treatment now could save the club money later. Of course, with Boras as his agent, that is likely doubtful. You can bet that Boras won’t forget this incident.


But, does it even matter? Boras will do his job and try to get his player the most money possible. The player will do the same. They want to get paid. Who can blame them? The team will look to keep costs as reasonable as possible. Think about an office manager who only buys the cheaper pens. Yes, they can afford to spend more, but they have to draw a line. For the Blue Jays, they have to worry about many players, not just one. A couple hundred thousand here and there adds up. So, Ross Atkins and co. are looking to be reasonable. It is a business. The problem is that in business, what is reasonable is always up for debate.






*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0










Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.

Shaun Doyle

Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.