Toronto Blue Jays: Staff Ace to Make League Minimum in 2017

One of the American League’s best pitchers from 2016 isn’t set to be compensated as such by the Toronto Blue Jays this season. Is that a problem?

Draft picks that pan out in Major League Baseball turn into esteemed prospects within their respective organization. Any upper level MLB front office executive will tell you there’s few things more rewarding from an operations standpoint. This is something the Toronto Blue Jays are looking to improve at.

Mark Shapiro was hired as President and CEO of the Blue Jays to change the culture of the club from a developmental perspective. Toronto understands his skills and propensities building organizations and their farm systems up through the draft and internal processes into real contenders.

After all, much of Shapiro’s time as an executive with the Cleveland Indians from 1991-2015 (starting in 2001 as GM and 2010 as President) can be summed up with a few tidbits worth noting; the Tribe had a payroll consistently below the league average from 2011-2015, but only once did they finish the season with less than 80 wins in that time span.

Even some of the Indians success in 2016 and their historic run to an ALCS pennant last year after Shapiro’s departure can be credited towards his work and ethos building the organization up prior.

It should come as no surprise that young, talented players on the farm or early in their MLB careers is something Shapiro covets. They’re inexpensive and they have many controllable and arbitration years ahead of them.

Blue Jays front end starter Aaron Sanchez is no exception. So when uber-agent and Sanchez’s representation, Scott Boras, went out of his way to flog Toronto with words regarding how the club handled his client’s contract, it didn’t paint a pleasant portrait of the Blue Jays from a business ethics angle.

It’s tough to justify paying a starter less than 12 months removed from a15-2 season leading sthe American League with his 3.00 ERA and 23 quality starts the MLB minimum ($535,000) in 2017, but such will be the case. Sanchez, who will turn 25 on July 1, could likely be Toronto’s Opening Day starter this year and is looking to build on a stellar sophomore performance.

We won’t get into the details of the contract and why there was a difference of opinions, or whether it’s Boras’ place to comment publicly in the first place. But none of this is surprising given Shapiro’s M.O., is it? Or Boras’ ego, for that matter. Toronto’s CEO is taking advantage of the MLBPA’s framework when it comes to contracts, but he isn’t breaking any rules.

The Blue Jays have been to two consecutive ALCS’s from 2015-16 while operating with a payroll well north of the league average in both of those years. Shapiro is trying to remedy that. Cleveland and Kansas City are recent shining examples that display bloated payrolls and high priced free agent signings aren’t necessities when it comes to playing in a World Series.

Sanchez is getting slighted some, but he knows the organization still has a  vested interest in him and people like Shapiro see him as the future of baseball in Canada’s only big league environment. Once he becomes arbitration eligible in 2018, his performance will be rewarded and his salary will be more reflective of his success on the mound.

He will easily be the lowest paid starter in Toronto’s rotation, yet no pitcher will have higher expectations than Sanchez in 2017. Good things come to those who wait. If Toronto’s best right-handed arm continues to approach his work in the same manner, his fortunes will literally improve in the near future.

In the meantime, with Shapiro keeping costs down, it gives the club more flexibility to do things like attempt to re-sign 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson, who won that very award on a meagre arbitration salary of $4.3MM. Seven years older than Sanchez, the Blue Jays’ third baseman is set to make a base salary of $17MM before potentially hitting the free agent market come December.

If 2016 was a sign of things to come for Aaron Sanchez, he’ll likely be making that kind of money in a single year long before he celebrates his own 31st birthday. Toronto Blue Jays fans can only hope he’ll still be cashing those pay checks north of the border.

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