Five Blue Jays players were willing to defer salary to help bring Ervin Santana to Toronto

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John Lott of the National Post reports that the five highest-paid Blue Jays — Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle — were willing to defer part of their 2014 salaries, reportedly close to $3 million apiece, so that the club could sign then-free agent pitcher Ervin Santana.

According to Lott, the deal fell through “at the 11th hour”. Santana wound up signing with the Braves on a one-year, $14.1 million deal on March 12.

Blue Jays third baseman Edwin Encarnacion was one player willing to sacrifice to make the team better:

“If they ask me to do that for anybody — it doesn’t have to be [Santana] — I do it,” Encarnacion said Friday afternoon after acknowledging that he was part of the group. “I want to win. I want to make this team better.”

Outfielder Jose Bautista deferred to GM Alex Anthopoulos.

The Jays have seen their payroll explode over the last two seasons, increasing from $84 million in 2012 to $119 million in 2013, then to over $137 million to start the 2014 season. Jays CEO Paul Beeston said that the club’s owner, Rogers Communications, would have to have been convinced that further increasing the payroll would lead to an increase in revenue.

Santana had a late start to the spring due to his extended free agency, so he was skipped over for his first turn in the Braves’ rotation and is expected to make his season debut on April 9 at home against the Mets.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.