Five Blue Jays players agreed to defer money

Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Chris O'Meara/AP

TORONTO – When the Toronto Blue Jays couldn’t come up with the money to sign Ervin Santana last month, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey stepped up deliver the cash, multiple sources told Sportsnet on Friday.

The five players told general manager Alex Anthopoulos that they would each defer portions of their salary in order to cover all of the $14 million that the free agent right-hander was seeking in a one-year deal.

Things started to unravel March 9, when Kris Medlen left a spring game with an elbow injury that eventually led to Tommy John surgery, and the Braves jumped into the mix. Three days later all the work went for naught when Santana signed with Atlanta.

Ken Rosenthal of reported Thursday that there had been some discussions about Blue Jays players deferring money for a run at Santana.

The machinations uncovered by Sportsnet demonstrate the financial constraints the Blue Jays operated under this past winter, and show clearly that the five players want to win badly and aren’t content to simply collect their paycheques.

They are the only Blue Jays with significant guaranteed money in the seasons to come. Reyes is due $16 million this year plus $22 million in each of the next three campaigns, Bautista gets $14 million this year and next, Encarnacion makes $9 million this season and $10 million next, Buehrle is due $19 million this year and $20 million next, while Dickey gets $12.5 million this season and next.

That it came to players pitching in to help make a deal happen raises a series of very troubling questions for the franchise, first among them what it means for Anthopoulos, who skirted the issue when speaking with reporters Friday ahead of the home opener.

While he did for the first time confirm that the Blue Jays “had an agreement in place” with Santana, he said “how we structure it is irrelevant” to fans.

To the contrary, the need to borrow from players and against future payrolls leaves all to wonder why he wasn’t able to raise the money on his own, and support the pre-existing $135 million or so in payroll committed to 2014. The Blue Jays have resisted deferring money under Anthopoulos in the past.

The club has $94 million on the books for 2015 but only $22 million plus potential buyouts in ’16 and ’17.

The main free agent signing by the Blue Jays this off-season was Dioner Navarro, and that agreement was revenue neutral because the $3 million he gets this year and $5 million due him in 2015 roughly line up with what the outgoing J.P. Arencibia would have earned in arbitration.

Anthopoulos spent most of the winter trying to make trades – deals for Ian Kinsler and Brett Anderson fell through for different reasons – which would have allowed him to somewhat balance the finances.

At the beginning of spring training Anthopoulos told reporters that any free-agent signings were “unlikely.” All that changed when Santana switched agents to Jay Alou, who let it be known that the right-hander was looking for a one-year deal.

Santana also told Encarnacion that he would take $14 million, information that the slugger then relayed to Anthopoulos. The suggestion of deferred money came at some point afterwards.

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.