Blue Jays: Extensions for Toronto’s young stars now very unlikely

Mar 11, 2020; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette (11) runs off the field during a game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles at TD Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2020; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette (11) runs off the field during a game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles at TD Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports /

The Blue Jays might be interested in signing some of their young stars to long-term extensions, but that’s going to be very difficult to do. That’s especially the case after Fernando Tatis Jr. signed a 14-year, 340 million dollar extension with the Padres, shattering the precedent for pre-arbitration eligible players, and changing the market forever.

To be fair, Tatis Jr. is one of the most exciting young players in baseball, and even if I think it’s ludicrous to bet on any player for 14 years, there’s still a good chance that the Padres will end up with a bargain in the long run. Still though, we’re talking about 340 million committed to one player, even if it’s for nearly a decade and a half.

What does that have to do with the Blue Jays? Well, they have a few budding young stars that could be the type worthy of receiving a long-term contract. I’ve talked about that strategy before here at Jays Journal, and I’m certainly in favour of the idea in a lot ways. That said, the Padres newest contract may have just changed the game for good, and that could have a direct impact on guys like Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and more.

Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson Smith wrote about Bichette on Monday, and addressed the similarities between the Blue Jays’ star shortstop and one of baseball’s newest millionaires in San Diego. The latter may be more highly regarded at the moment, but the comparison is a legitimate one. Both players are 22 years old, have had very successful early intros to big league baseball, hit for average and power, and offer some speed on the base paths as well. The edge goes to Tatis Jr. who has earned 7.0 bWAR over his first 143 games, but Bichette isn’t far behind at 3.2 over his first 75.

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Does that mean that I think Bichette is destined for a 300 million dollar contract? Not necessarily, but if he can stay healthy and reach his potential in 2021, the conversation likely becomes very real. At that point there are two questions that need to be answered. One, do Bichette and his camp want to go that route? And two, would the Blue Jays even entertain such a thing?

There are risks on both sides for a contract of 10 or more years. As I mentioned above, I’d be reluctant to commit big money to any player for 14 years, even if they’re among the best in baseball. There are just so many variables that could be involved, including yet reached potential, long-term health, longevity of production, and more. If you’re talking about an eight-year, 100 million dollar deal like Ronald Acuna Jr. is working on, it’s a no-brainer. But 340 million over 14 years? That’s a different animal.

On the player’s side, Bichette alluded to some of his perspectives in Nicholson-Smith’s article.

"“I’m happy for Fernando. I’ve always admired the way he plays from the minor-leagues until now. He’s an exciting player. I think it’s really powerful that an organization believed in him enough to put the commitment they did. Obviously he’s probably still not going to get paid what he should have, but I think it’s good for Fernando and I think it’s good for the Padres. It’s good for baseball.”"

Bichette also admitted that the topic of a long-term extension had been “brought up, but no offer”, which isn’t terribly surprising given how much money the Blue Jays spent in free agency this winter.

In addition to the complications that come with the new Tatis Jr. precedent, Ross Atkins and company still have to think about the rest of their roster, even if they’d like to keep Bichette around for the next decade or longer. Others like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Nate Pearson are on a similar contract timeline, and the Jays will have to account for their rising salaries over the next five years or so as well. That’s not to suggest that you don’t lock up your best player because you want to keep the supporting cast, but there will a limit to the future payroll, and this roster still isn’t quite a finished product either.

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So while I wouldn’t rule out the idea of an extension for Bichette, or maybe one of the other young stars in the Blue Jays lineup, I wouldn’t bank on that happening any time soon either.