Shapiro addresses media on all things Blue Jays

March 12th, 2019

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro held his quarterly State of the Union-like address with the local media on Tuesday morning, and touched on almost every aspect surrounding his Blue Jays organization.

Shapiro spoke at length about everything from payroll, to Marcus Stroman's recent controversial comments and possible upgrades to Rogers Centre. Here are some of the top excerpts from the informal news conference:

On whether Blue Jays have a timeline for their current rebuild:

Shapiro: "I’ve got a range of timelines in my head, because in this game you just don’t know. The beauty of the game is, it’s being played by human beings. There’s no limit to how quickly it can happen, but there’s also no certainly to how fast it will happen. That’s why it’s important to not stake it on or two or three players. You’ve got to have a lot of players and lot of players coming. That’s why you can’t set specific timelines. If you do, you paint yourself into a corner."

On whether payroll is operated on a year-by-year basis, or whether the club can plan multiple years in advance. In other words, are Blue Jays allowed to save money from 2019 payroll and put it toward 2020?

Shapiro: "It doesn’t work like that ... There is a multi-year plan in place, there’s an understanding and a commitment from our ownership group, and the leadership of Rogers, that there is an understanding of where we are now and an understanding of where we’re going to go. At some point, when [general manager] Ross [Atkins] and [manager] Charlie [Montoyo], our baseball leadership group and all of us kind of say, 'We’re on the brink of contention. Like, we’re very close right now. We need to supplement. We have an understanding of where that need lies, that at some point payroll will outpace our revenues.' That point will come. And frankly we have payroll left to spend now, we haven’t spent all of our payroll to date this year. It’s just a question of where and when do those opportunities present themselves and, if we do bring in veteran players, how does that offset our ability to continue to foster and develop the younger core talent on the team?"

On whether lack of multi-year financial commitment makes the front office's jobs more difficult:

Shapiro: "As long as there’s a mutual and common understanding of what the general plan looks like, I don’t think so. I don’t think those specific numbers are important right now. There’s also a collective understanding of the division we play in and what it takes to compete in that division. I’ve felt zero disconnect. I’ve felt a complete connection to the general idea and plan."

On Shapiro's reaction to Stroman's comments earlier this spring when he criticized Blue Jays for lack of veteran leadership, and whether he's the type of player Toronto wants in the clubhouse:

Shapiro: "He’s the kind of player we want in our clubhouse. He’s highly competitive, highly athletic, he’s been a big part of what we’ve accomplished here over the last five years. I also think that you need to have individualism. I want players to feel free to say what they believe and what they think. I think that if our clubhouse is strong enough, those players handle that culture and that environment on their own. That accountability, that ownership, of what this team looks like. Who we are. What we stand for. The way that we handle ourselves. The kind of teammates we are. When we are the team we need to be, those players handle it. So a player can say anything they want. And how it impacts our team, our environment, is handled within that clubhouse."

On whether the Blue Jays have concerns about Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s conditioning:

Shapiro: "Not concerns. I think we’ve been very consistent from Day 1. There’s one tool, when it comes to Vladdy’s development, that so far outpaces every other aspect of his development. That we’ve got concerns about every other piece of his development, trying to catch that up to his hit tool. I talked about Manny Ramirez and that model and challenge we went through in Cleveland a long time ago in the same way. And I still feel the same way, it’s a little bit unfair to take a 19-year-old or a 20-year-old and say, ‘We expect you to handle yourself like a veteran, Major League player. We expect you to handle yourself, in every aspect of your game on and off the field, your routines, your preparations, your baserunning, as if it’s as good as your bat.’ We’re trying to develop those things right now with a sense of, 'How do we expedite that, how do we catch those things up?'. Every now and then there are going to be reminders."

On the Phillies deciding to spend a lot of money and speeding up their rebuild vs. Toronto's quiet offseason:

Shapiro: "It started with developing their own core of players first, so I think we are doing the same thing, they’re just two or three years ahead of us. I also would say that they actually have the largest cable deal in all of Major League Baseball if you go back and look. Their resources in Philadelphia, they have a very big media and regional market that consists of a lot of New Jersey as well. They have extreme resources. Extreme resources. Among the best in the game, probably top six or seven in the game."

On whether the Blue Jays are getting enough from their current television deal:

Shapiro: "I'm on the RSDC, [Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee]. That committee's oversight is to look at related party transactions. So we're not the only team. NESN [Red Sox], YES Network [Yankees], there are other teams that have some ownership stake. Every single one of the related party transactions is audited and under the oversight of the RSDC. I was recused when the Blue Jays deal was audited and looked at, but it has been audited and looked at. I think what's missed often is that the Canadian market is just different. It's obviously very different, much more highly regulated. There is no political advertising, there is no drug advertising, all of those things affect the nature. I think if there was some disconnect, that was at a large scale or level, that the RSDC would have already audited and said that's an issue. There are certain aspects that you can't control, when it gets back to exchange rate, that dynamic of the television market, but the reality is that Toronto's market is one of the best in MLB."

On where things stand with possible renovations at Rogers Centre:

Shapiro: "We continue to make changes on a daily basis. There is going to be a new roof this year. We're going to finish a major infrastructure waterproofing project around the building, which is really important because the foundation of the building was having some major issues with erosion and water issues. We have done some major rebranding of the 100 level of the concourse, I think you're going to see a major difference in signage around the building. We continue to talk about some other larger-scale issues. We're obviously doing the premium club as well. But the larger-scale project is mainly being run and taken over at an ownership level because it is large in scale. It does involve more than Rogers Centre. That's really the extent that I can talk about it right now. I'm excited for us to get involved in that when the time is right, but we're moving on undeterred and thinking about 'How do we improve the building year to year,' and this year we will unveil quite a few changes to that building."