TORONTO -- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos might have to be a little creative this offseason in order to get the most out of his projected payroll for the 2014 campaign.
Toronto is notoriously secretive about its annual budget, but various reports have suggested the club will be able to spend approximately $150 million next season. Anthopoulos has yet to comment on a specific figure, and he frequently talks about having certain parameters accompanied with an ability to approach ownership with various proposals.
If next year's payroll does hover around $150 million, it would be an increase of approximately $30 million from 2013 and almost $77 million more than the club spent in '12. Despite the added funds, there likely will be a certain limitation on what the Blue Jays can do this offseason.
The Blue Jays have 15 players under guaranteed contracts for 2014 and four who are eligible for arbitration. The current projected payroll appears to be $132.9 million, which would leave slightly more than $17 million on the estimated figure to spend in free agency or through trades.
However, there are ways that Anthopoulos could increase the amount of available funds even if he does get capped at $150 million. Here's a closer look at Toronto's current salary commitments and several ways the club could increase the available money:
Edwin Encarnacion ($9M), Maicer Izturis ($3M), Jose Reyes ($16M), Melky Cabrera ($8M), Jose Bautista ($14M), Adam Lind ($7M), Josh Thole ($1.25M), R.A. Dickey ($12M), Mark Buehrle ($18M), Brandon Morrow ($8M), J.A. Happ ($5.2M), Casey Janssen ($4M), Sergio Santos ($3.75M), Dustin McGowan ($1.5M), Ricky Romero ($7.5M).
Eligible for arbitration
Colby Rasmus, J.P. Arencibia, Esmil Rogers, Brett Cecil
Prominent pre-arbitration eligible players
Brett Lawrie, Steve Delabar, Aaron Loup, Ryan Goins, Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra, Drew Hutchison, Luis Perez, Kyle Drabek, Jeremy Jeffress, Chad Jenkins, Brad Lincoln, Kevin Pillar, Todd Redmond. Each player would receive in the range of $500,000 if they made the 25-man roster.
Total estimated payroll: $132,900,000
Areas for potential savings
Arencibia: The Blue Jays have been exploring the market for a potential upgrade behind the plate. If that happens, Toronto likely would deal Arencibia to another team and offset the salary of his replacement while acquiring an asset in return. Arencibia could stick around in a backup role, but that would seem unlikely considering Thole is already contract for next season.
Happ: The southpaw is owed $5.2 million in 2014, with a $6.7 million option for '15, which includes a $200,000 buyout. Happ is not the frontline starter the Blue Jays are currently in the market for, but he does provide some depth and is a relatively nice fit in the No. 5 spot. Toronto does have other back-end rotation options, though, and the club should have Hutchison, Drabek, Rogers, Redmond and prospect Marcus Stroman competing for that role next year. Trading Happ could remain a possibility, and his salary could then be allocated to other areas.
Romero: The left-hander likely could use a change of scenery following a pair of frustrating seasons in Toronto's organization. The former ace spent almost the entire 2013 season with Triple-A Buffalo and still has $15.6 million in guaranteed money remaining on his contract. Romero likely will be difficult to trade, but even if the Blue Jays eat a large portion of his contract, any type of savings could be used to help upgrade the overall roster.
Rasmus: This would seem like one of the more unlikely options, but the Blue Jays could open up some additional salary by trading the outfielder to fill another area of need. Gose is waiting in the wings and could be ready to take the next step on a permanent basis. That would result in a drop of production at the plate, but Gose does have plenty of upside in the field and on the basepaths. Still, it's hard to envision Toronto parting ways with Rasmus unless it receives a really enticing offer.
Lind: The first baseman is set to earn $7 million next season, and the club could look to trade him and search for a cheaper alternative. The chance of that happening, though, doesn't appear to be all that great considering the Blue Jays recently picked up the option on his contract for 2014 instead of using a $2 million buyout. There would be cheaper alternatives available through free agency, but Toronto would still have to use a rather large amount of cash to replace Lind's production against right-handed pitching out of the designated-hitter spot.
Bautista: Make no mistake about it, the Blue Jays aren't going to trade the slugger just for the sake of lowering their payroll. Anthopoulos emphatically dismissed the Bautista for Philadelphia's Domonic Brown rumors earlier this week, which really never seemed to make much sense in the first place. There aren't really any untouchables on Toronto's roster, but the Blue Jays would undoubtedly need a high-end starter in return for one of their franchise players.
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.