Elliott: Jays now sit 12th giving six-figure bonuses to Canadians

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June 2, 2019

By Bob Elliott

Canadian Baseball Network

Recently two former first-round Canadian draft picks graced the Rogers Centre turf.

It should come as no surprise that they were wearing visiting uniforms.

The slogan is “One Team, One Nation,” for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Canada’s Team eh?

Maybe where you buy your ball caps, your t-shirts and your jerseys with the names on the back.

Maybe at the window where you line up to buy your tickets.

Yet, on the summer sandlots and indoor facilities where high schoolers dream of getting drafted, getting signed and having a chance, Your Toronto Blue Jays are waaaay down the charts.

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Six-figure signings for Canadians

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Where do the Blue Jays sit overall when it comes to giving out cash money to Canadian kids?

Well, we can’t really narrow it down to the last penny or looney, but a strong indicator of who pays the most comes when examining the six-figure bonuses paid. Our analytic department from Ormond added the cash payouts of $100,000 or more. 

Your Toronto Blue Jays sit 12th heading into Monday’s annual draft of high schoolers and collegians. They are behind the Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers, Miami Marlins, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs.

The Pirates have spent the most, ringing up the cash register at $6,905,000 US, thanks to Canadian citizen Jameson Taillon (The Woodlands, Tex), who was given $6.5 Million and three others. 

The Mariners have spent $5,557,500, led by $2 Million to Gareth Morgan (North York, Ont.) and $1.9 Million to RHP Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.).

The Padres were third with $5,327,045 with $3,963,045 going to RHP Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.).

In all, 126 players have been given six-figure signing bonuses. The highest bonus the Blue Jays ever gave to a Canuck ... well, you’d have to go down to 30th overall ... and RHP Trystan Magnuson (Vancouver, BC) of the University of Louisville. That’s when the Jays gave the relative of former Chicago Black Hawks star Keith Magnuson’s $462,500 in 2007. 

The largest amount that the Toronto Blue Jays have given a Canadian high schooler is RHP Tom Robson, (Ladner, BC) of the Langley Blaze, who was given $325,000 -- which is the 45th highest.

Now, in fairness they were not 0-for-126. There were eight players that the Blue Jays never had a shot at:

High schooler RHP Jameson Taillon (The Woodlands, Tex.) second overall in 2010 to the Pirates; LHP Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC) of the Whalley Chiefs, fourth overall to the Orioles in 2002; RHP Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) from Stanford and the Ontario Terriers, eighth to the Padres in 2016; LHP Jeff Francis, (North Delta, BC) of UBC ninth to the Rockies in 2002; RHP Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.) of the Academy Baseball Canada, 11th to the Mariners, 1B Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) of the Ontario Blue Jays, 12th to the Marlins in 2015; Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) of the Langley Blaze, 16th to the Brewers in 2008 and RHP Michael Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) of the Calgary PBF Redbirds, 28th over-all to the Braves in 2015.

Last year seven Canucks receieved six figure cash amonts. The Jays passed on all of them including first-rounder C Noah Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) of the Ontario Blue Jays, who went 29th overall to the Indians signing for $2,578,138. The others: OF Tristan Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.), third rounder to the Miami Marlins, who signed for $645,000 after playing at Kentucky and the Toronto Mets. C-1B Kole Cottam, a fourth rounder, who went to the Red Sox for $375,000. RHP RJ Freure (Burlington, Ont.), a sixth rounder from Pitt to the Houston Astros for $348,800, LHP Erik Sabrowski, 14th rounder from St. Cloud CC to San Diego, RHP Michael Brettell (Fonthill, Ont.), of the Great Lakes Canadians, a 15th rounder to St. Louis and LaRon Smith (Spruce Grove, Alta.), a 25th rounder to the Twins.

Sabrowski, Brettell and Smith all signed for $125,000. Maybe the Blue Jays did not know that Cottam’s father’s roots went back to Burlington’s Nelson Park. But if the organization did know why tickets sales had spiked ... or there was a reason to play Vladimir Guerrero on the Victoria Day holiday ... Well, maybe it was a hang with ‘em.

The Jays did sign RHP Will McAffer (North Vancouver, BC) a 25th rounder for $50,000. They also selected 3B Damiano Palmegiani (Surrey. BC) a 35th rounder, who did not sign.

While former Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi would have taken Jeff Francis if he had the chance the Jays passed on future major leaguers like INF Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) a second rounder who went to the Cincinnati Reds in 2002, RHP Blake Hawksworth (North Vancouver, BC) from Bellevue Community with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001, INF Scott Thorman (Cambridge, Ont.) of Team Ontario, a first rounder in 2000 by the Braves and SS Kevin Nicholson (Surrey, BC) of Stetson College, who went to the Padres in 1997 and Noah Naylor.

The Jays didn’t like the looks of prospects like OF Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, BC) a Langley Blaze grad; RHP Curtis Taylor (Port Coquitlam, BC) of UBC, now with Tampa Bay, RP Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, BC) and INF Jared Young (Price George, BC) both of the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamaondbacks’ C Andrew Yerzy (Toronto, Ont.) of the Toronto Mets, RHP Jordan Balazovic (Mississauga, Ont.) of Ontario Blue Jays and RHP Landon Leach (Pickering, Ont.) of the Toronto Mets, both now with the Minnesota Twins and INF Adam Hall (London, Ont.) of the Great Lakes Canadians.

Whether it was the late Bobby Prentice, Kevin Briand, Bill Byckowski, Jamie Lehman, Adam Arnold or Jay Lapp, all hard-working scouts who covered Canada for the Blue Jays, Canadian scouting directors have not been given a lot of power in the draft room. They crisscross the country, evaluate and then in come the cross checkers, who have seen players in Florida, Texas, California and over rule them. Lehman had to fight tooth and nail for Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) ... in the 16th round. This trend has gone on since 1977.

Yes, the Blue Jays have drafted 12 players and spent $2,202,500, but were not in on the top player most years. Three times since 1991 have the Jays grabbed the top player: LHP James Paxton (Ladner, BC) University of Kentucky in 2009. SS Lee Delfino (Pickering, Ont.) of Team Ontario in 1998 and Robson in 2011. Robson signed, while the Jays did not come to terms with either Paxton or Delfino. 

The Jays Canadian scouts knew Ryan Dempster was going to be a keeper, but a California-based scout based Dempster last on the list of pitchers heading into the 1996 draft. One Jays scout told of visiting Dempster as a high schooler. His parents left the room and “the teenager conducted the most mature signability visit I have ever had.”

They knew Justin Morneau would be a big leaguer three springs later. Yet when the California scout came to see Morneau he walked three times and popped up.

“It was great when Pat Gillick was there, he cared about selecting a Canadian,” said an ex-Blue Jays scout. “After that we had troubles getting anyone above us to show interest in a Canadian.”

While it doesn’t make sense to draft players based on their passport it doesn’t make sense to ignore the best from an entire country.

The Jays don’t have to be first in signing Canadian talent but would be making the top 10 too much to ask?

One Nation.

One Team.

How many drafts from Canada with a six-figure bonus?

Top payouts by the Jays

To a collegian: RHP Trystan Magnuson (Vancouver, BC) University of Louisville $462,500 2007. 

To a high schooler: RHP Tom Robson, (Ladner, BC) Langley Blaze $325,000 2011

Total signing bonuses to Canadians who were paid more than $100,000

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Who has spent the most money ($100,000 signing bonuses or more) since Canadians were eligible for the draft in 1985:

1. Pirates $6,905,000 (Jameson Taillon, Austin Shields, Eric Wood and Tom Boleska).

2. Mariners $5,557,500 (Gareth Morgan, Phillippe Aumont, Tyler O’Neill).

3. Padres $5,452,045 (Cal Quantrill, Kevin Nicholson, George Kottaras, Erik Sabrowski).

4. Orioles $5,291,800 (Adam Loewen, Adam Hall, Travis Seabrooke),

5. Braves $3,787,700 (Mike Soroka, Scott Thorman, Adam Stern).

6. Brewers $3,556,700 (Brett Lawrie, Demi Orimoloye, Alexandre Periard).

7. Marlins $3,297,000 (Josh Naylor, Tristan Pompey, Chris Leroux).

8. Indians $3,263,138 (Bo Naylor, Nick Weglarz, Robbie Vael, Jordan Scheftz)

9. Twins $3,231,500 (Landon Leach, Jordan Balazovic, Jesse Crain, Justin Morneau, LaRon Smith).

10. Reds $3,076,000 (Joey Votto, Kyle Lotzkar, Miles Gordon)

11. Cubs $2,315,900 (Rob Zastryzny, Ryan Kellogg, Wes Darvill). 

12. Blue Jays $2,202,500 (Trystan Magnuson, Tom Robson, Marcus Knecht).

13. Rockies $2,187,000 (Jeff Francis, Lars Davis).

14. Rangers $1,965,000 (Kellin Deglan, Charles Leblanc, Ryan Dempster and Mike Nickeas).

15. Cardinals $1,875,000 (Blake Hawksworth, Malik Collymore, Michael Brettell).

16. Diamondbacks $1,810,800 (Andrew Yerzy, Curtis Taylor, Jake Polancic).

17. Yankees $1,420,000 (Jeff Degano, Evan Rutckyj, Cory Stuart).

18. Astros $1,123,800 (RJ Freure, Abraham Toro-Hernandez, Brock Dykxhoorn, Evan Grills).

19. Dodgers $897,500 (Kyle Orr, Steve Nelson, Jeff Hunt).

20. Red Sox $800,000 (Chris Reitsma. Kole Cottam).

21. Tigers $773,700 (Chris Robinson, Jacob Robson, Daniel Pinero).

22. Royals $475,000 (Kevin Chapman and Mitch Hodge).

22. White Sox $475,000 (Aaron Myette, Bryan Saucedo).

24. Phillies $435,000 (Steven Inch, Ben Pelletier).

25. Mets $245,000 (Jonathan Malo, Guillaume Leduc).

26. Expos $230,000 (Martin Mainville, Shawn Hill).

27. Rays $140,000 (Brad Furdal).

28. Giants $105,000 (Brooks McNiven).

29. Nationals $100,000 (Eric Senior).

(The Oakland A’s and California Angels have not given a six-figure bonus to a Canadian).

Major leaguers in bold.