When it comes to contract extensions, the Toronto Blue Jays see themselves more like the New York Yankees than the Tampa Bay Rays. Asked about the possibility of extending Colby Rasmus and preventing the 27-year-old from hitting the open market a year from now, GM Alex Anthopoulos indicated that he’s comfortable taking a patient approach.
"We don’t mind paying a little more to be sure we get a little more information," Anthopoulos said, noting that large-market teams rarely rush to extend their players. "I think we’re getting to that position now."
Earlier in his career, Anthopoulos pushed to complete extensions early. Players such as Ricky Romero, Adam Lind and Aaron Hill signed deals that locked them up long before they hit free agency. Now that the Blue Jays have the flexibility to spend more aggressively, locking players up to Rays-like extensions isn’t a necessity.
"We don’t feel the need to necessarily do it so early," Anthopoulos said.
The Blue Jays are comfortable waiting until a player is in the middle of a walk year before beginning extension talks. It worked when the Blue Jays locked Edwin Encarnacion to a three-year, $29 million contract in 2012. The deal cost Toronto more than it would have earlier but still looks like a tremendous contract from the team’s perspective.
That’s much different than the approach favoured by small-market teams including the Rays and Oakland Athletics. Those teams often prefer to lock players up after one or two MLB seasons. Evan Longoria, Matt Moore, Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Rich Harden are among the many players who signed extensions in Oakland and Tampa Bay before becoming arbitration-eligible. In those cases, the players obtained certainty and the teams capped costs.
The Blue Jays’ willingness to wait may mean the club will hold off on extension talks with Rasmus. Though Anthopoulos declined to say whether the Blue Jays have reached out to the centre fielder’s representatives at Excel Sports Management or vice versa, the GM suggested that he’s comfortable playing the waiting game. In the meantime, Rasmus figures to earn somewhere in the $6.5-7 million range in 2014, his final season as an arbitration-eligible player.
Toronto’s approach worked with Encarnacion, who signed mere months before free agency. A similar stance may work with Rasmus, but it’s also possible that the lure of the free agent market would be impossible to ignore. A year from now, Rasmus might be a top free agent. That’s a risk that large-market teams such as the Yankees take on a regular basis and one that now seems palatable to Anthopoulos.