Rogers commits to bigger Jays payroll
Toronto's current player budget stands at around $69.5 million
TORONTO -- Toronto may have obtained its biggest offseason acquisition on Tuesday. In an interview with a group of reporters at the Air Canada Centre, Blue Jays owner Ted Rogers announced that he felt the team needed a larger payroll.
Rogers' comments came four days after Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said he didn't think winning the American League East was realistic with a payroll of around $70 million. Now, it appears as though Ricciardi and the Blue Jays will have more money to work with.
"I do think we need to increase the payroll," Rogers said matter-of-factly, as reported by the Canadian Press. "We are getting results from our fans. We have 38 percent higher TV ratings, 22 or 24 percent higher ticket sales. As long as the public supports us, we can afford to do those things."
Paul Godfrey, the Blue Jays president and CEO, said on Tuesday that the club addressed the payroll situation recently with Rogers and he was extremely encouraged to hear about the owner's remarks. Godfrey wouldn't hint as to how much of an increase in payroll was being considered, though. He did say that he expected to have a better idea of what the figure will be by the end of October.
"We put a request in to the owner through Rogers Media several days ago about team payroll going forward," Godfrey said. "His remarks today indicate that he wants to win just like J.P. Ricciardi wants to win and like I want to win.
"Nothing has been finalized with respect to numbers," he added. "I don't think anybody should jump to conclusions about what that number could be or might be. We'll find out as I take the Blue Jays budget through the process, which may take several weeks to get approved."
When Rogers was asked what kind of payroll figure he had in mind, he responded by saying, "Ricciardi is the one I'd ask."
Ricciardi declined comment about the matter on Tuesday.
Toronto's current payroll stands at around $69.5 million and is estimated to be around $78 million for 2007. Prior to last season, Rogers allotted $210 million to be used for the 2005-07 payrolls. On Friday, Ricciardi indicated that he felt the Blue Jays would require more financial flexibility to compete more realistically with the Yankees and Red Sox.
In 2002, when Ricciardi was in his first season as Toronto's general manager, the difference in payroll between the Blue Jays and Yankees was roughly $50 million. Since then, that figure has jumped to about $130 million. That's not even factoring in the Red Sox, whose payroll is about $120 million this season.
"I don't think you're going to win the division with $70 million," Ricciardi said on Friday in Boston. "I don't think you can make the playoffs on $70 million. I think you can be competitive and you can have some good years, but I think these two teams, with their payroll, it's going to be really tough to catch them if we stay at $70 million.
"If everything goes right, we might find a way to make the playoffs," he added. "But a lot has to go right to overtake those two teams. It's not sour grapes or anything. It's just the reality. We'll be competitive, but up to a point."
Rogers said that he wasn't upset about Ricciardi's comments.
"I'm never angered when I have a brilliant manager say what he thinks should be done," Rogers said. "This guy is a fabulous manager. We're so lucky to have him. When he started, the payroll was about $50 million and I raised it so that we would have it [around] $70 [million] or $75 million for three years."
It isn't clear whether or not a similar three-year stipend is in the works for the 2008 season and beyond. Godfrey indicated that there are certain pitfalls that go along with that kind of commitment. The first two years under the three-year format sometimes take a hit in payroll because the team wants to have enough money left over for the final season under the plan.
"I'm really not going to get into anything because then you'll start trying to zero in on numbers and things like that," Godfrey said. "Having gone through this, I think the initial commitment was great. It started us off in the right direction and gave us the opportunity to build a team that had five All-Stars on it this year.
"I think a lot of people in Toronto are pleased," he added. "I've been pleased, and the owner has been obviously pleased. I'm looking forward to building something even bigger and better."
Rogers said that doesn't just start with his contributions -- that the fans have to do their part, too.
"People have to feel it's a great race," Rogers said. "They know that the Rogers group is solidly behind the Blue Jays, but we need their support. We need people to come out to the games. If we're going to make these investments, we're going to need their support and help."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.