With the Canadian dollar continuing to decline, the Toronto Blue Jays’ window of opportunity inches closer to closing. On December 18, the dollar closed under 71 cents American for the first time since spring 2004. For Canadian baseball fans, that could spell disappointment, as the Blue Jays looked to build upon last season’s run to the American League Championship Series.
In 2004, the Blue Jays were in year three of the J.P. Ricciardi era. Four years earlier, Ted Rogers purchased the Blue Jays for $160 million. Rogers hired Ricciardi a year later following the “Moneyball” success of the Oakland Athletics.
Also in 2004, unfortunately for Montreal Expos fans, the Blue Jays would become Canada’s only MLB team. The Expos struggled due in large part to a poor dollar, weak attendance and owner instability, and were relocated to Washington DC.
Ricciardi’s first order on the job from Rogers was to cut payroll. This decision was made largely because of the state of the Canadian dollar, which sat in a similar position to today. Ricciardi proceeded to trade off nearly every good player on the roster not named Carlos Delgado. Delgado would eventually leave as a free agent following the 2004 season. However, in the eyes of Rogers, Ricciardi had succeeded and was granted an extension after cutting payroll to $50 million (USD). For several years the Blue Jays sat comfortably in the lower third of major league payrolls.
The low Canadian dollar has already presented itself early in this off-season as the Blue Jays were unable to match the contract free agent pitcher David Price received from division rival Boston. Price left the Blue Jays for $217 million USD over the next seven years. Given the current state of the dollar, it would have cost the Jays roughly $300 million Canadian to resign the former CY Young winner.
Even with the massive increase in baseball revenues over the past decade, Rogers Communications was unwilling to commit that much money to one player. In addition to the state of the Canadian dollar, the problem of being corporately owned has reared its ugly head again. Unlike other teams, whose owners freely spend their money with no one to answer to, the Blue Jays are not that fortunate. Every dollar must be accounted for and is budgeted each season as Rogers must answer to its corporate stockholders.
What does the state of the dollar mean for the rest of the Jays’ off-season? That’s simple – shopping at bargain prices. Interim General Manager Tony LaCava’s first move was bringing back pitcher J.A. Happ. Happ is best suited for the National League where he can face a pitcher every nine batters. In the American League East, he is a fourth starter at best and is a significant drop off from Price. With the state of the dollar, new General Manager Ross Atkins is unlikely to be spending the money necessary to improve the roster.
For fans of star sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, disappointment may be around the corner. Both could be playing their last season in Toronto. Bautista and Encarnacion enter the last year of their contracts and are in line for a raise and long-term contract. If the dollar continues to drop, giving either player an extension will be made even more difficult. If the team gets off to a slow start, it could be the Blue Jays that are sellers at the trade deadline this season.
For the first year this decade, every Blue Jays move is being made with the Canadian dollar in mind, as the deep pockets of Rogers may have reached their limits. The financial limitations have all but ended the Blue Jays chances of winning their elusive third World Series.