5:43pm: Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey were the five players who would have been willing to defer salary to sign Santana, SportsNet.com's Shi Davidi reports. Those are the five highest-paid players on the Jays' roster this season. The deferrals raise "very troubling questions" about the direction of the franchise, Davidi writes, wondering why the Jays did not come up with the money themselves.
10:50am: Ervin Santana certainly looked to be headed to the Blue Jays at one point this offseason, but late injuries to Braves right-handers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy prompted Atlanta to swoop in and sign him to a one-year, $14.1MM contract (the same figure Toronto had offered). According to the latest report from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Blue Jays players were willing to defer their salaries in order to allow the club to sign Santana. Rosenthal adds that discussions never got past the "conversation" stage, however.
One agent told Rosenthal that he never took the situation that seriously, as the MLBPA wouldn't have allowed players to merely defer their salary without receiving some form of additional financial compensation. Still, as Rosenthal points out, the discussions raise some questions about the Jays' payroll flexibility for the 2014 season.
Two agents told Rosenthal that they heard talk of deferral from their players but were never approached by GM Alex Anthopoulos. While Anthopoulos declined comment to Rosenthal, team president and CEO Paul Beeston admitted to Mark Galloway of CBC Radio that there were some discussions about deferring salary for current players to accomodate Santana (Audio link). Said Beeston:
"Well, there was discussion about that, Matt. And to be very honest with you, I think if it would've gone that way, that would've been fine. But we are at $140MM right now. One thing that we do have is a very generous owner from the point of view of what they have committed to try to build the team."
Beeston was somewhat vague when asked by Galloway if ownership had capped spending at that $140MM mark, replying, "Well, we're a business. So the answer to that is we have a budget. So the answer is it's not a cap, because I think if we can increase our revenue, we can increase our expenses. But we run it as a business."
Beeston added that if money gets to the point where ownership isn't comfortable, other avenues such as trades or the farm system become avenues to improve the team. He offers high praise for Top 100 prospects Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, noting that they're excited to introduce them to the Major League fanbase and will need a combination of cost-controlled players to pair with the team's more expensive stars.