Blue Jays seeking partner for jersey-patch ads, could be on uniforms within two years

Brandon Barriera puts on a jersey after being selected by the Toronto Blue Jays with the 23rd pick of the 2022 MLB baseball draft, Sunday, July 17, 2022, in Los Angeles. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

SAN DIEGO – The Toronto Blue Jays expect to add a sponsored jersey-patch to their uniforms within the next two years and are “actively” seeking a partner to purchase the rights, team president and CEO Mark Shapiro said Tuesday.

Under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement negotiated by Major League Baseball and its players in the spring, 4-inch-by-4-inch advertising decals can be worn for the 2023 season, a first for the league.

The patches represent a new revenue opportunity for clubs, but Shapiro said the Blue Jays “will not rush to do something we don’t think is with the right partner and the right deal” and added that because the change was “a relatively late development” in labour talks, “I think you’ll probably see a large number of teams not having them in place.”

“I don’t have a good feel yet of where we’re going to be in that,” he added. “I’d say in the next two years we will have a jersey-patch partner.”

The patches, expected to be attached to jersey sleeves, will make for a jarring sight on the clean, crisp look of a major-league uniform.

Although much larger advertisements on far more prominent areas of jerseys have long been a staple of European sports, the NBA began allowing sponsorship patches only for the 2017-18 season, while the NHL started selling helmet ads in 2020, and started with sweater ads this season.

In finding a match for the Blue Jays, Shapiro insisted the club won’t be looking for “just the biggest money.”

“We’re looking for someone that epitomizes the word (partner),” he said. “Is it a brand that is proud to identify with us and that we’re proud to identify with? Is it someone that we truly help, that we truly think we can impact their business and, in exchange for that, know that they’re going to help us impact our business? We’re looking for alignment in values, alignment in impact, as well. That could be expanding our partnership with an existing partner. Or it could be with a new partner.”

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The Blue Jays are believed to have insured Hyun Jin Ryu’s contract , and although Mark Shapiro wouldn’t confirm that’s indeed the case, he does concede that “we have some players we have coverage on.”

“I will say this to you, blanket: every single long-term contract we do, we go to market and we price out policies,” he added. “Some we self-insure and some we get insurance, depending upon what the policies come back as. I’m not going to ever get in the situation where we say we do or don’t on certain guys. It’s not fair for players.”

Player privacy is certainly important, although the Blue Jays no doubt would also rather keep everyone guessing at how much money they have to work with this off-season. Ryu is due $20 million in the final season of an $80-million, four-year contract and how much of that, or his $20 million salary last year, the Blue Jays may recover depends on the policy’s structure.

Typically, there would be some type of deductible and limits on the payout, tied to the duration of a player’s absence. Ryu missed 137 games across two injured-list stints last season, including 113 in a row from June 2 onward when he underwent Tommy John surgery.

The 35-year-old lefty is likely to miss a similar number of games next season, if not more.

“A certain amount of time (missed) is required,” Shapiro said, speaking in general terms about how insurance on player contracts work. “Sometimes there are disclaimers on certain body parts. That can be what leads into the decision of whether to insure a player or not. There are always waiting periods. … And it’s always for a percentage of the contract, never the full contract. Those are those are pretty much universal in every single policy.”

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The Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs have both expressed an interest in hosting an upcoming All-Star Game, commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday, providing competition for the Blue Jays in their pursuit of the Midsummer Classic.

Seattle is hosting the 2023 game, with Texas recently awarded the game for 2024. With Philadelphia having previously been granted the 2026 game, that leaves the three clubs competing for the 2025 event and those in 2027 and beyond.

“We’re lucky, this is in the category of embarrassment of riches,” said Manfred. “We have a number of really good cities that are very interested in having All-Star Games, cities that really would allow us an opportunity to raise the profile of the game, have a great celebration, and we’re going to try to make the best decisions we can about where we’re going to.”

The Blue Jays, in the midst of renovations to Rogers Centre, would like to use the game as a way to show off their redesigned ballpark.

Toronto has hosted the All-Star Game only once, back in 1991, Boston last had it in 1999 and Chicago was the site in 2003, although that was at the White Sox’s Guaranteed Rate Field, as the venue is currently known. The 1990 game is the most recent at Wrigley Field.

Shapiro said the Blue Jays are “are waiting to hear back on (their) bid,” with part of their pitch being that “we’re going to have a renovated ballpark that’s going to feel completely new in the interior and makes the stadium a more fitting complement to a city that is already a great backdrop for a jewel event.”

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The Blue Jays plan to unveil the Rogers Centre’s new outfield dimensions in January, and while the tweaked fence won’t “be uniform” all the way around, Shapiro said the club doesn’t foresee a drastic impact on run production at the dome.

Despite its reputation as a hitter’s haven, the dome has played essentially neutral in recent seasons, according to Baseball Reference’s park-factors calculation. To ensure it stayed that way, Blue Jays assistant GM Mike Murov and director, baseball operations Jeremy Reesor worked with the club’s analytics department to model out what the outcomes of the new dimensions would be on the balls put in play at Rogers Centre in recent seasons.

They then made sure that “if a fence comes in some place that the height would be raised correspondingly,” said Shapiro. “It won’t be a uniform fence all the way around, whether it be height or angles. That creates some interesting outcomes on balls in play. But it should not change it to where we have a defined ballpark attribute, meaning it becomes a left-handed hitter’s or right-handed hitter’s park. We’re pretty neutral. We play pretty fair over a multiple-year scenario. The goal would be to maintain that.”


The decision in January by Major League Baseball’s executive council to nix the Tampa Bay Rays’ sister-city plan with Montreal was “exclusively based on the concept of a split season” and not a rejection of the city, said commissioner Rob Manfred.

Stephen Bronfman, the Claridge Inc. CEO, believed he and Rays owner Stuart Sternberg were within sight of the finish line when the rug was pulled out from under them. Whether the initiative was simply a ploy to pressure Tampa Bay officials all along is up for debate, but the council’s calls dashed hopes that big-league baseball would return to Montreal and left the city’s aspirations in limbo.

Manfred insisted the decision wasn’t a comment about the market’s viability.

“There were just complications surrounding that (split-city plan) that the council came to the conclusion were insurmountable,” he said. “It should not be taken as a statement one way or the other about Montreal.”

Last week, the Rays unveiled another plan for a new stadium, this time as part of a redevelopment project for the club’s current Tropicana Field site in partnership with a global real estate firm.

Manfred said, “Sternberg is doing what the executive council and I have indicated that he should be doing – he is trying to explore all of the available options in the Tampa Bay region to get a facility that is a first-class major league facility and improves the economic situation (of the Rays).”

A resolution of the Rays’ longstanding stadium issues would likely remove relocating a team from the spectrum of possibilities for Montreal. Manfred has long said that MLB won’t consider expansion until the stadium situations for the Rays and Oakland Athletics, who have a pathway to Las Vegas if things don’t work out, are resolved.

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