Blue Jays: Who should the front office look to extend first?
The young phenom
Some Blue Jays fans have already started asking an important question, and that’s whether or not the club will try to work out a long-term deal with their franchise player in Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The good news is that the Jays will have Vlad Jr. under contract for four more seasons after this one regardless of whether they talk about an extension or not. In 2022 he’ll be arbitration eligible for the first time, and it’s a slam-dunk that the MVP candidate will get a substantial raise from the $605,400 he’s earning this season. It’s hard to predict what kind of increase he could see, but he’d have a case for a record-breaking ask.
Rather than go through that process every winter over the next four years, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the Blue Jays try to add some certainty to their budget, and also reward their young star in the process. Obviously the greater incentive would be to keep him in a Blue Jays uniform beyond just the next four seasons, and paying him early should be a more affordable way to do that, and hopefully a more convincing argument to get the slugger to commit.
We’ve seen other teams across baseball use this strategy in recent years, with the White Sox locking up Eloy Jimenez (6 years, 43 million) and Luis Robert (6 years, 50 million) to long-term deals at an extremely early stage, and Atlanta did the same with Ronald Acuna Jr. (8 years, 100 million) and Ozzie Albies (7 years, 35 million) as well. In those four cases I’d argue that the team should get a very sizeable discount because of their early faith, and the Blue Jays would be a little too late to look for that kind of deal.
On the other extreme, I’m sure Guerrero Jr. and his agent are drooling over the 14 year, 330 million dollar deal that Fernando Tatis Jr. secured from the San Diego Padres and looking to score something similar. Tatis Jr. is the same age as young Guerrero, and while he brings additional value like speed and a more difficult defensive position (when he’s at shortstop), that contract set a new bar for Vlad Jr. to reach for.
My expectation is that the Blue Jays will wait for at least another year before they talk about a long-term pact with Vlad Jr. I’m sure they’d like to get something done sooner than later, but with more urgent high-salary priorities coming up over the next year or so, don’t be surprised if Atkins leaves this situation a little longer. The only problem with that is that waiting longer may just increase the price.