Certain Toronto Blue Jays were so intent on bringing in free agent pitcher Ervin Santana as a teammate that they were will to defer some of their salaries.
First reported by FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, it's unknown if the impetus for the deferral proposal came from players or management, but it never left the preliminary stages. Rosenthal says that a pair of agents had heard word of the plan, but that they were never approached by Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
Santana turned down a one-year, $14 million offer from the Jays and signed with the Atlanta Braves on the same deal after the Braves lost Kris Medlen for the season with Tommy John surgery. Whether or not the actual deferral proposal would fly in practice is another discussion altogether, as there would likely have been significant hurdles from the MLBPA, who is normally loath to allow its players to concede any sort of contractual edge without commensurate compensation.
"I never took it that seriously," an agent told Rosenthal. "No way it would have ever passed the (union) unless there was some gain for the players who did that."
In an interview with Matt Galloway on CBC's Metro Morning, Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston confirmed that such discussions took place, but maintained that payroll was there if needed.
"There was discussion about that and, to be very honest with you, I think, had it gone that way, it would have been fine, but we are at $140 million [in payroll] right now," said Beeston. "The one thing that we do have is a very generous owner from the point of view of what they have committed to try to build the team. I think that the Rogers people, more importantly [former Rogers Communications CEO] Nadir [Mohamed] last year and carried on this year with [current CEO] Guy Laurence and the Rogers family, have given us the dollars we've wanted, that we need to put a contending team on the field. It's up to us to bring them together."
For his part, Anthopoulos believed the deal was done. He would not, however, get into the specifics of how the pact would have been structured.
"The takeaway for me is we felt that we had an agreement in place," Anthopoulos told reporters prior to teh Jays' Friday home opener. "He was prepared to come here. We had the dollars. How we choose to structure those dollars, those are things that we keep in house.
"But I believe if Kris Medlen had not been hurt, Ervin Santana would be here today."
Not that Anthopoulos was about to hold that against the 31-year-old.
"He had a lot more interest going into the NL, which is his right," he said.
When pressed on whether or not the team's spending was capped, Beeston insisted that it wasn't.
"We're a business, so the answer to that is that we have a budget," said Beeston. "It's not a cap. If we can increase our revenue, we can increase our expenses, but we run it as a business."
With the Jays only signing catcher Dioner Navarro during the offseason, Beeston said that free agency is not the only avenue to improve his team and that trades could be made over the course of the season.
"You have to organize it in manner that you might have to make some trades," Beeston explained. "You may have to look at different ways of bringing your players along, but I don't think from the point of view of money, money is our problem. One of the issues that we have is that we had to build our farm system up and we have done that over the last three or four years, but it's not like hockey or basketball, where you come right out of the colleges or out of the minor leagues and move right into the Majors. So some of the pitchers that we have down there like [Marcus] Stroman and [Aaron] Sanchez, they're just ready to come, but those are the guys that you will want to have introduced into your organization because they have to play three or four years before they make the big dollars. So you need a mixture of the players who are at the minimum, as well as your stars. But you don't win without stars."
While Beeston acknowledged that teams can win with smalled budgets, free-spending teams are the ones most likely to find success.
"Let's be realistic about it," said Beeston. "You can do it, but you're gonna get lucky and have everybody pop at the same time. Ultimately, teams like the Dodgers and the Yankees and Boston, that are spending all kinds of money, are basically the teams that have star players at every position."
The Jays open a three-game set with the New York Yankees on Friday night at the Rogers Centre.