Sanchez has ‘no hard feelings’ toward Blue Jays over salary dispute

Aaron Sanchez talked about his contract situation with the Blue Jays and what he is focused on right now.

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Aaron Sanchez’s agent, Scott Boras, created quite a stir in Blue Jays land Wednesday night, speaking out strongly against the process the club used in renewing the young starter’s contract.

Speaking publicly about the situation for the first time Thursday after making a start against the New York Yankees, Sanchez said he was leaving the dispute to the parties directly involved and remaining focused on preparing for the season.

“Obviously, we came upon a disagreement. That’s the part of the game that a lot of people get misconstrued. This is still a business. It’s just a spot where we didn’t agree,” Sanchez said. “That being said, I have goals to accomplish for myself. Goals to accomplish as a team. I have teammates that I have to pitch for. I have fans in Toronto that I have to pitch for. So, I’m focused on getting better every day.

“[The contract renewal] is something that they (Scott Boras and the Blue Jays) can take care of. My job here is to come to the field and get ready to work hard and to get better. And that’s what I come to do. All that other stuff is outside noise and irrelevant to me.”

Boras’ beef with the Blue Jays stems from a long-standing club policy stating that if a pre-arbitration player such as Sanchez rejects a raise offered to them, they are then renewed at the major league minimum. That’s why Sanchez, who was an all-star and led the American League in ERA last season, will make only $535,000 this season.

“It’s just something that we didn’t agree on. They said there’s a plan in place that has been there for quite some time now. And that’s their policy,” Sanchez said. “I’m just here to worry about me getting better and helping this team get to places where we’re trying to go. That’s always been my mindset and that will never change. I’ll let all that other stuff come when that time comes.”

Asked about the situation Thursday, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said the club had made an offer to Sanchez that was higher than the major league minimum, based on a formula the club uses that factors in service and playing time but not performance. Boras described the offer as “not commensurate to his performance peers” and Sanchez rejected that offer, which triggered the major league minimum policy.

Asked why he didn’t accept the higher offer, Sanchez opted not to get into specifics.

“That’s something that I don’t like to speak about. I’ll just keep it at that,” he said. “We had a disagreement. There’s no hard feelings between Ross and I, between me and this organization. It’s time to go play baseball, really. All that other stuff is irrelevant to me. I’ve got places I want to go and things I want to do with this team. I’ll let all that other stuff take place with them (Boras and the Blue Jays). That’s why I hired him and that’s what they’ll do.”

A concern for many fans is that this public squabble over a marginal amount of money could negatively affect Sanchez’s relationship with the team going forward.

Sanchez has been nothing but a model Blue Jay over his time in the organization, which began when he was selected 34th overall in the 2010 draft. He was brought along slowly through the minor leagues, often piggy-backing his outings with another starter in order to preserve the health of his arm. Once he reached the majors, he accepted two separate bullpen assignments despite preferring to be a starter and pitching in that role throughout his minor league career.

Last season, Sanchez dedicated himself to a highly specialized conditioning and nutrition regiment, which helped him add a substantial amount of muscle mass and laid the foundation for the 192-inning, 3.00-ERA season he pitched. He finished seventh in Cy Young voting.

When the organization wanted to remove him from the rotation after acquiring Francisco Lirinao at the trade deadline, Sanchez pushed back, making a strong case that he should continue starting, and accepted more time off between his starts in order to incorporate Liriano into a six-man rotation. He even accepted a minor-league demotion at one point when the team was facing a roster crunch down the stretch.

It’s simply not the greatest look for the organization to be rewarding Sanchez after all of that with a major league minimum renewal. But those are the optics. Asked if he felt valued by the organization, Sanchez was adamant that he does.

“Absolutely. I don’t think last year we would have had the conversations we had, we wouldn’t have sat down and did everything we did, if I wasn’t valued and I didn’t feel valued,” he said. “If they didn’t care, we wouldn’t have had the conversations that we had. So, there’s no hard feelings in any of the situation.

“That’s the business side of the game that a lot of people forget about. Because this is a sport. And there is a lot of fun that comes with this game. The business part, that’s stuff that I’ll leave handled with them. I’m out here to work on what I need to work on with the other 24 guys that are behind me. And that’s where I’m headed.”

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.