Even when touching on positives from the Toronto Blue Jays 2021 season and offseason plans, President and CEO Mark Shapiro said there was a sense of "bitterness" watching the postseason play out without the Blue Jays involved.
The feeling leaves Shapiro determined to improve the team next year, he said, and the many ways the organization can do that were the many topics the executive touched on during his offseason press conference Monday.
Here are four takeaways from Shapiro's meeting with the media:
1. Blue Jays Offseason Plans
The club's plan is to improve, Shapiro said, building off 91 wins and reaching a number of victories that can consistently push the team into the postseason.
The MLB squad no longer has to improve by 10 or 15 wins, Shapiro noted, after rebounding from a 95-loss season just two seasons ago. But, improvements are still required. On pending free agents Marcus Semien, Steven Matz, and Robbie Ray, the CEO lauded the group and expressed interest in a reunion, but said he's not a believer in "having" to sign any specific player back.
"We would love to sign all of those guys back," Shapiro said.
As always, the Jays will continue to weigh short-term wins against the long-term plan—the "core part" of GM Ross Atkins' job, Shapiro said. Maintaining a balanced roster in terms of age, salary, offensive approach, and handedness are all factors the Blue Jays will weigh when dealing this winter.
2. Expect Payroll Growth
While bringing players back or new players in will be Toronto's offseason strategy, who those individuals are will be dictated by the club's payroll. The Blue Jays Opening Day payroll increased significantly in the past two seasons, sitting just over $135 million in 2021. Shapiro indicated the team has the capacity to increase spending once again.
"The plan will continue to be as the core continues to grow ... the payroll will grow," Shapiro said.
The Blue Jays will see increases in salary in first-year arbitration for Guerrero Jr. and natural increases to salaries for José Berríos, Teoscar Hernández, and others. But, with over $35 million coming off the books in the form of Kirby Yates, Matz, Semien, and Ray alone, a payroll increase in 2022 should signal significant free agent or trade additions. The increase in spending would come despite financial struggles due to COVID-19 and the revenue hit that came with it, Shapiro added.
"We've seen an incredible amount of trust and belief in the plan and support from ownership," Shapiro said, "despite the fact that we're still suffering from the pandemic and its impact on our revenues."
The organization does not, however, plan on spending above the competitive balance tax threshold ($210 million in 2021), per Shapiro.
3. MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement Update
The 2021-22 offseason will have the cloud of collective bargaining hanging over it until a new MLB CBA is agreed upon with the players' association. The Blue Jays' offseason, however, should be minimally impacted by the CBA negotiations and potential changes, Shapiro said. The impact will be less on free agency and trade, and more on other aspects of the organization, Shapiro said, also noting his growing confidence in a deal getting done in a timely manner.
"I'm feeling pretty good about the commissioner being so confident that a deal will get done by December 1st," Shapiro said.
4. Rogers Centre Improvements & Renovations
Rogers Centre will look a little bit different next season.
The Blue Jays will be adding a new scoreboard while they continue to "look at ways to improve the concourse experience," Shapiro announced.
Plans for significant stadium renovations or construction of a new stadium, tasks Shapiro has discussed before, will have to wait. The CEO noted a new stadium for the Blue Jays is "a long-term issue that has been put on hold due to the pandemic."
He did, however, identify a significant Rogers Centre renovation or new stadium as "the biggest capital project left for the Blue Jays," leaving it as a key long-term plan for himself and the franchise.
"At some point, we've got a bigger issue," Shapiro said.