Blue Jays optimistic for new deal in Dunedin

Contract with their Spring Training home in Florida expires in 2017

Blue Jays optimistic for new deal in Dunedin

TORONTO -- Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro is "optimistic" that the club will be able to reach a long-term agreement with the city of Dunedin to keep its Spring Training complex in Central Florida.

Toronto's lease at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and the Bobby Mattick Minor League complex is set to expire at the end of 2017. The Blue Jays previously explored the possibility of relocating to another region, but those plans have since been put on the back burner.

The top priority at the moment is to reach a deal with Dunedin, where the club has called home since its inception in 1977. The details still need to be worked out, but Shapiro seems confident that a deal will eventually get done.

"I would say that at the moment I'm optimistic," Shapiro said. "I had a really good meeting ... with the city before we left. I feel like there's a good foundation, a good understanding of our expectations of the situation. I feel like they've made an effort to provide us with a layout that would work.

"The hardest pieces, like we've always said, are putting a financing deal together. It's a complex one that involves a lot of different funding sources, as every Spring Training deal in Florida is. But we have one basic foundation, which is we want to stay there and they want to keep us there."

The Blue Jays are considering proposals that would see Florida Auto Exchange Stadium undergo a full renovation. The Minor League complex, which is approximately a 10-minute drive across town, also would be fully renovated with state-of-the-art training facilities.

Toronto's current situation sees its players get dressed at the stadium before taking a bus over to the complex for team workouts at the start of spring. Once games start, players typically remain at the stadium and are no longer able to use the facilities at the complex.

The goal this time would be to have the Minor League complex as the permanent base. It would be a spot where injury rehab players can go to get treatment during the season and in the spring it would be used at all times except when players take a bus to the stadium for the games.

"Their passion for the Blue Jays is not just a light one, it's historical and it's strong," Shapiro said of Dunedin. "We've spent a lot of energy and time thinking about it. I think this is a good situation for us and I feel like there are a lot of forces aligned that lead me to be optimistic.

"I'm still a big believer, and I will tell you this, a deal is either done or not done. Whether it's a contract, a trade or a deal with a Spring Training circumstance. We are not done, not even close, but I'm feeling optimistic at the moment."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.