The next contract extension priority for the Blue Jays
The Blue Jays were thrilled to announce a contract extension for Jose Berrios this week, but the work in that department is far from over.
I’ve already spent a fair bit of time talking about the Blue Jays’ future contract extension needs with their core, especially because it’s relevant to how they go about their business this offseason. There are some clear needs on the current roster, and there should be enough budget room to make some impact moves to help in the near term. The tough balance will be finding those solutions without locking up too many big contract commitments for the future.
The reason that’s important is because the Blue Jays have already committed roughly 20 million per season to Berrios for the next seven years, and still have another five years and 125 million to go on George Springer’s big contract that was signed last winter. There are only two years left at 20 million per season for Hyun Jin Ryu, but the rest of the core is going to get expensive in a hurry as well. The Blue Jays may look to get Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette signed to extensions with just four years of contract control remaining for each, but the more immediate priority might be convincing Teoscar Hernandez to stick around.
There were reports that the Blue Jays tried to sign Hernandez to an extension during the 2020 season, and it’s not hard to see why. The oft-overshadowed slugger has won a Silver Slugger award for two consecutive seasons, and has quietly become one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball with a well balanced attack.
During his age-28 season Hernandez slugged an impressive .296/.346/.524 with 32 home runs and 116 RBI over 143 games and just 550 at-bats. It was good for 3.9 bWAR and enough to earn him some down ballot MVP votes, and it came off the back of very similar production in 2020 over the shortened 60-game season.
In my mind, Hernandez has proven himself as a legitimate elite threat at the plate, so much so that I hope the Blue Jays are ready to keep him around for the long-haul. He has two years left on his current deal before he’ll become a free agent after the 2023 season, and either way he’s going to get more expensive than the 4.325 million he earned this year. He’s probably looking at something closer to 10 million in 2022, and that figure will climb even more with another productive season.
On top of being able to keep another premium hitter around the Jays for the foreseeable future, I think it’s important to consider another significant variable. When asked who his best friend in baseball is, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. picked Teoscar Hernandez. The two have a clear bond that is easy to spot with their antics on the bench, and those relationships are important to the culture of the clubhouse, and even in trying to convince Vlad Jr. to stick around for the long haul.
Add it all up and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Blue Jays were continuing to engage Hernandez and his agent with extension talks. No doubt they have other things to focus on as well through the free agent and trade markets this offseason, but now that Berrios is under contract for seven more years, perhaps Ross Atkins and company can bump Hernandez up on the priority list. Based on the way he’s performed after the last few seasons, he’s earned it.