Blue Jays: How long will the window of contention be open?
The Blue Jays should be firmly in the midst of a “win-now” phase, but just how long can we expect them to keep the window of contention open?
If I’m being honest right out of the gate, that’s a question that we can’t fully answer right now. There are so many variables involved that go into sustained success, including the talent on the field, the health of that talent, the development of the minor league system, and so much more.
Having said all that, I do think we can look at a few things that the Blue Jays have going for them, and at least take an educated guess about what the window of contention could look like. In my mind there are at least a couple of different answers even if I’m looking at the question in the most simple of terms, and I’m sure you can guess where I’m going to start with this whole idea.
While the Blue Jays are a deep and talented group, I don’t think you’d find many folks that would argue about Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette being the key members of the core of this team. They’re both All-Star level talents at just 22 and 23 years old respectively, and they’re only going to continue to improve as they gain experience at the highest level. There are absolutely other players that have to be included in the foundation of this team as well, such as veterans like Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios, and George Springer, but no two players are more valuable to the present and future of the Blue Jays.
If we’re looking at the window of contention relative to Guerrero Jr. and Bichette, we at least have an idea of the guaranteed time that they’ll be around. That could always change with a new CBA as well, but I’d be very surprised to see the owner’s side agree to lose contract control of current young stars like that under a new deal. Assuming I’m correct about that, we know that the dynamic duo is under contract for at least four more seasons. They’ll both get a lot more expensive through the arbitration process, with Vlad Jr. slated to go through it for the first time at some point this offseason, but the Jays can take comfort in knowing they’ll be around at least through the 2025 season.
Obviously the bigger goal with those two will be to secure their long-term futures, but that will be easier said than done in today’s extension climate. At one time it was very much a team-friendly idea when we saw smaller early extensions handed to the likes of Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies in Atlanta, or with Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert with the White Sox, but that whole market has changed. Things shifted for good when Fernando Tatis Jr. signed a 14-year, 330 million dollar pact to commit to the Padres for the long haul, and Wander Franco just inked a massive 11 year deal with the Rays that will be worth at least 182 million, and likely more with the incentives that are built in. At this point the Blue Jays should understand that there won’t be much of a hometown discount for either of their foundational stars if they’re able to extend them.
Of course, no team is made or lost through just two players alone, and thankfully the Blue Jays have plenty of young talent where that came from. Depending on what happens with the next CBA the Jays should have Manoah in the fold for at least the next six seasons, which matches up well with five more from a 31 year old Gausman, and even more with seven more seasons of Berrios’ services, who is just 27 years old. Add at least four more seasons of contract control with their closer in Jordan Romano and the Blue Jays have some core pieces in place for their pitching staff for the foreseeable future.
On top of that, I’m a huge believer in their top two prospects in Gabriel Moreno and Orelvis Martinez. We should see Moreno make his debut at some point in 2022, and I believe that he’ll be another core player to add to the talented Blue Jays roster that will hopefully push them one step closer to a return to the World Series. As for Martinez, he’s a few years behind and likely will spend at least a couple more seasons in the minor leagues, but I feel like he could be the face of the next wave of talent from the system.
So now that I’ve said all of that, how long do I think the Blue Jays’ window of contention will be open? The short answer is for at least the next four seasons, and that’s if they can’t extend at least one of Guerrero Jr. and/or Bichette. I have faith that not only will the front office work to get those extensions done, but that they’ve also built enough talent around those two that they can continue to be a force to be reckoned with even if they can’t keep everyone. The situation could look at lot different in 3-4 years, both for the Blue Jays and for their fellow contenders.
One thing is for sure, the rebuild in Toronto is over and the Blue Jays are ready to take the next step towards building a legitimate contender, whenever baseball is ready to come back anyway.