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The Globe and Mail

Will the tight-fisted Jays ever become major league spenders?

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos talks on his cell phone during baseball spring training in Dunedin, FL, on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011.

Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The Blue Jays have said they will spend dollars – big dollars – when the time is right.

But for now, they're playing financial small-ball and have gone into baseball's winter meetings with a miserly mindset. They have a payroll reported at $70-million, and it could rise – but probably not enough to sign Prince Fielder. The 27-year-old Milwaukee Brewer first baseman's booming bat is still on the market, but general manager Alex Anthopoulos and his boss Paul Beeston have said they're not going to fall down a 10-year contract hole to get him.

For the tight-fisted Jays, defence comes before offence. The Jays made their first move of the winter meetings, acquiring closing reliever Sergio Santos from Chicago's White Sox for starting pitcher prospect, Nestor Molina.

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It's a good move, considering Santos is 28 years old and has a lot of upside. The closer's role could be solidified for a long time. But they haven't closed the door on Fielder. The Milwaukee first-baseman Fielder is 27 years old – and more expensive. He may have tipped his hand toward Toronto as one of three teams he's considering, along with Washington Nationals and staying in Milwaukee.

Last year he had a .299 batting average, 38 home runs, 120 runs batted in, .415 on-base percentage and 95 runs scored with Milwaukee. No question he'd look good in the lineup with Jose Bautista and could make the Jays a playoff team. But two things stand in the way: 1. There's still the dreaded free-spending New York Yankees to be overcome top get to a World Series; and 2. Toronto would likely have to break open the vault and pay Fielder more than Bautista.

The newcomer would have to boost attendance beyond the average of 22,500 where it sits now to make it financially palatable. Either Anthopoulos must convince the Jays to pry open the purse strings or agent Scott Boras has to ease up his contact demands for Fielder. Neither looks likely to happen.

As attractive as Fielder would look in Toronto's uniform, Anthopoulos should keep looking. The budget-conscious Jays have done what matters most for their team in dealing for Santos.

"We're trying to build a competitive team that will be good for a long period of time with the parameters that we do have, when you look at the salaries over six years. It's not a bottomless pit. If it was it would be different," Anthopoulos said.

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