Shapiro Negotiating Jays' Future in Dunedin

DUNEDIN, Fla. – The future of the Blue Jays in Dunedin is up in the air as new club President and CEO Mark Shapiro meets with city officials to discuss improvements to the team’s spring training and rehabilitation facilities.

“There are realities that may be charming about our current situation but that charm is not going to bring wins,” Shapiro told assembled media on Thursday. “So we need to be in a situation where we modernize our facility and have the ability to ingrain a culture that's player focused and player centred. They understand that. They've been very receptive and we're going to have to work hard and work together to get that done but I'm optimistic that will happen.”

Shapiro isn’t new to this. He was general manager of the Cleveland Indians when that franchise got caught up in the run of teams heading west, moving its spring training from Winter Haven, Florida, to a shared facility with the Cincinnati Reds in the Phoenix suburb of Goodyear, Arizona.

The Blue Jays aren’t new to this. They entered negotiations with the Houston Astros to open a shared facility across the state in West Palm Beach but talks fell through.

The Atlanta Braves, who train at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World, are looking for new digs. Are they a potential partner?

“I've talked to (Braves President) John Schuerholz and, again, I think right now we're not searching,” said Shapiro. “Right now we're trying to get a deal done with Dunedin. If it gets to a point where we're searching, that search will be wide. We cast a net everywhere there would be and we'd look at all alternatives but as of right now I think our best chance to get a deal done here is to focus on getting a deal done, singularly, and not to be out there simultaneously looking for alternatives.”

That’s good news for Dunedin, at least in the near term.

Shapiro’s most recent sit down with city officials, including Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski, was on Tuesday. These talks aren’t just about a new stadium; the Jays want improvements to their training and rehabilitation facilities and they’re the only remaining big league team which has its spring training stadium and its practice complex at different locations. The drive, depending on how many of Pinellas County’s maddeningly long red lights you get stuck at, is approximately 10 minutes. It’s doable but there isn’t anything big league to having your big league players board a bus to go and workout.

“Whether that is an evolution of the current arrangement or just an improvement in the renovation of the current arrangement, there are so many good things in the tradition and in the pride of having been here yet we have a need to balance that with what's best for the Toronto Blue Jays,” said Shapiro.

BAUTISTA’S COMMENTS

Mark Shapiro wasn’t taking the bait when asked to comment on Jose Bautista’s take it or leave it contract strategy.

“Part of the landscape; part of spring training,” said Shapiro. “Every spring training there are contractual situations that come up and you manage them as effectively as possible, always maintaining the focus on what we’re out here to do as a team and to win a championship.”

Shapiro has said goodbye to cornerstone free agents before. As general manager of the Indians, first baseman Jim Thome left for Philadelphia after the 2002 season and two years later, shortstop Omar Vizquel moved to the San Francisco Giants.

“When it gets down to it we will deal respectfully and privately with the business matters we have to deal with,” said Shapiro.

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