There will be a new scoreboard at Rogers Center next season, but the future of the former home of the Blue Jays is yet to be determined.
Mark Shapiro, president and CEO of the Jays, announced in Monday’s end-of-year availability that short-term improvements would be made to the stadium again this offseason, following recent improvements to the sound system and turf. They are also looking at ways to improve the fan experience on the esplanade.
But Shapiro also acknowledged that the club has a bigger problem to address, one that has been suspended in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The biggest capital project left for the Blue Jays to consider is how to approach the Rogers Center through a significant renovation or a new stadium at some point,” Shapiro said. “That’s not immediate, but it’s one, when you think about the Blue Jays’ long-term horizon, we’ll have to address it at some point.”
The Blue Jays’ last major infrastructure project was the construction of a player development complex at their spring training home in Dunedin, Florida. It took two years to build at around $ 100 million (US) and was unveiled in February. The Jays are building a new hitting lab there, the final piece of the project “for now,” Shapiro said.
Other topics discussed Monday include:
- The labor front: Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement with players expires Dec. 1, but Shapiro says it’s normal for his front office to head into a “very important offseason.”
“Right now, I feel pretty good that the commissioner is so confident that a deal will close by December 1,” he said.
Shapiro doesn’t expect any new deal to have a major impact on free agency or trades. And talks about long-term contract extensions with young stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette don’t necessarily have to wait until a new deal is negotiated, he added, although any changes related to length of service could be a factor.
- The bullpen: Shapiro pointed to the bullpen as one of the reasons the Blue Jays finished with a top-five run differential in the regular season before missing the postseason.
“(I’m not) sure I’ve seen a better season of work in the baseball collective operations,” he said of acquiring bullpen help earlier and, in Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards, during the season. “The bullpen is a difficult area. It is fickle. There are hardly any teams that, year after year, build dominant bullpens, and you will almost certainly have to adapt and adjust as the season progresses. “
That said, more experience on the pen made Shapiro’s list of areas that need improvement this offseason, along with more balance in batting order.
- The playoffs: Watching the postseason game has reinforced the notion that the Blue Jays are there with the contenders, Shapiro said: tough in the postseason. “
After being eliminated on the final day of the regular season despite finishing 91-71 in the competitive AL East, Shapiro is aiming for 92 or 93 wins in 2022.
“(I’m) sure almost every year those are numbers that will get you into the postseason.”
- The difference: A healthy George Springer could be worth it for the extra wins they need next season, the Jays boss said. The center fielder was limited to 78 injury games in his first season with Toronto.
“He’s clearly one of the best players in the game when he’s on the field; We saw him when he was healthy and playing, ”Shapiro said.
He compared Springer, 31, to Guerrero, nine years his junior, when it comes to his love of the game.
“That little bit of ability to have fun and enjoy despite the roller coaster you’re going to be on is very important and can make a difference in this game,” said Shapiro.
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