Earlier this week we learned something new about Lourdes Gurriel Jr’s contract with the Blue Jays, and the impact could be fairly significant.
For those that missed the chatter, it all boiled down to the discovery that Gurriel Jr. will be a free agent after the 2023 season rather than 2024 as most of us believed would be the case. That had long been the published info regarding the Cuban-born slugger’s contract, with the terms coming to a bargain rate of 4.5 million in 2022, 5.4 million in 2023, and a final year of arbitration eligibility in 2024.
To be fair, that was the understanding of Gurriel Jr’s contracts according to the most prominent websites that track that sorta thing, including spotrac.com, and Cot’s contracts. In fact, as of this writing the former still shows Gurriel Jr. as being arbitration eligible in 2024, so the confusion was widespread.
Now that we have this new information, how does it affect the Blue Jays’ plans, if at all?
I think there are a few important things to consider here. First and most obvious, it’s a bummer to discover that the Jays have just lost a guaranteed year with an above-average hitter like Gurriel Jr. That’s especially the case because he’s under contract on such a team-friendly rate, even if that lost year likely would have come with a significant raise.
Secondly, the Blue Jays might look at their outfield just a little bit differently now. There’s no reason to panic by any means, but now Gurriel Jr. joins Teoscar Hernandez as being on track to hit free agency after the 2023 season. Two seasons from now might be an appropriate time to plan to shift George Springer to one of the corner spots anyway, but without extensions for the duo then we know they could both leave at the same time.
As the news hit social media, a handful of fans opined that it didn’t really matter much because Gurriel Jr. is going to be used as a trade chip anyway. Obviously we have no idea what Ross Atkins and company have planned for the offseason, but I’ll admit that it’s possible Gurriel Jr. could be dealt even if I personally don’t think that it’s likely. That brings me to the third point though, that unfortunately the cannon-armed outfielder just lost a bit of his trade value. He’ll likely still be coveted with two years of team control at just 9.9 million, but three years would have been even better.
I’m not sure that it will make the difference in whether or not he could be traded, but if anything this latest revelation may have lowered the chances a little bit. I say that because I’m guessing that Gurriel Jr. would only be dealt in the event that the Blue Jays were receiving a premium talent in return. Hypothetically, it’s possible that Cleveland would ask for Gurriel Jr. as part of a return package from Toronto to trade Jose Ramirez, for example.
Of course, that brings me to the last point and that’s the fact that this Gurriel Jr. contract stuff may not have been news to the Blue Jays front office at all, or any other team in baseball. With all due respect to the fantastic fan resources like Spotrac and Cot’s, I’m willing to bet that big league front offices have their own system of calculation, or at the very least, would be certain of the terms before entering into any trade discussions.
At the end of the day, this may have just been news to the fan base, and to be fair, even to the respected baseball writers that cover the Blue Jays. I can’t remember anything like that happening before.