The Toronto Blue Jays are in an interesting time of their competitive window. Many of their key players are in the pre-arbitration stage of their careers. Others are about to enter arbitration or are signed to multi-year contracts.
The team will need to decide which players to sign to contract extensions, which ones to go through the arbitration process with, and who could become trade pieces.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Santiago Espinal are just three of the vitally important players that could enter arbitration this Winter. Here’s a look at how that could play out.
Blue Jays Arbitration, Young Stars
The Blue Jays avoided arbitration with Guerrero Jr. by signing him to a one-year, $7.9 million contract. He’s arbitration-eligible again after this season and is set to become a free agent in 2026. It seems inevitable that he will sign a contract extension but will it be this offseason? He’s the most indispensable member of the team. Could the Jays offer him a long-term, record-level contract? Would he be willing to sign it if they did?
Bo Bichette will be arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2023 and it’s easy to envision him and the team agreeing on a one-year deal to avoid the process. So far, Bichette hasn’t been able to match the wonderful season he had in 2021. The whole purpose of arbitration seems to be poking holes in a player’s performance or speculating that it may not be sustainable. It’s unlikely Toronto would want to do that with a guy as talented as Bo.
Santiago Espinal has made himself some money this year for sure. He’ll enter arbitration for the first time and should receive a healthy raise. He’s set to hit the open market a year later than the other two, in 2027. Perhaps the team could get creative and offer Espinal a short-term contract that would extend his controllable years while offering him a significant pay raise.
Teoscar Hernandez has failed to match the huge numbers he’s put over the past few seasons, although he has gotten hot lately. He’ll be arbitration-eligible for the second time this offseason and, unless extended, will become a free agent in 2024.
The team needs to decide if they want to hitch their wagon to Hernández long-term. As explosive as his bat can be, he’s never come close to anywhere near a league-average defensive outfielder and his lack of hustle on some plays is hard to watch.
The Jays won’t be able to keep all of their star players. Trading a guy like Hernández may not be popular, but it could net a valuable return.
Blue Jays Arbitration, The Other Guys
Over the last couple of years, injuries and a lack of steady production have worn off some of the lustre of these two, but they can still be part of the solution. With Jansen, he’s also dealing with playing the same position as Alejandro Kirk and Gabriel Moreno, who have become sensations over the past several months.
It seemed like it was all coming together for D.J. this year, as he has seven homers in just 56 at-bats, but his unfortunate streak of injuries may eventually make him expendable. While it’s assumed that once he’s healthy that he’ll continue to get a good amount of playing time, the past two weeks have shown fans that Moreno belongs in the big leagues.
Jansen is a free agent earlier than Vladdy or Bo, in 2025, so it seems likely that he will earn a raise in arbitration, and then be traded sometime over the next year or so.
Biggio has actually improved his standing within the organization more recently and has proved to be a decent utility player. He does have some value in the role and his power potential as a rare left-handed bat on the team only increases that. It’s fair to think that he will get to arbitration and be on the team for the next few years, but not outlandish to think he could be involved in a trade too.
Blue Jays Arbitration. Bullpen Arms and Spare Parts
If all of those young position players approaching arbitration wasn’t enough, the Blue Jays also have several important members of their bullpen due for a raise. Jordan Romano, Adam Cimber, Trevor Richards, and Trent Thornton will all hit salary arbitration ahead of the 2023 season.
Retaining Romano is a no-brainer. Keeping Cimber in the fold makes a lot of sense too. Obviously, they’re not going to bring back the whole bullpen which has been problematic at times. Richards, in particular, has struggled with the long ball this season. He has a 6.59 ERA and has surrendered seven homers in 28.2 innings of work. Thornton, meanwhile, has improved his stock and could have a future as a bulk innings reliever.
Tapia and Zimmer have been fine, but aren’t exactly must-bring-back candidates.
While the Blue Jays do have a lot of players eligible for arbitration this offseason, three of their brightest young stars, Kirk, Moreno, and Alek Manoah, won’t be arbitration-eligible until at least after next season. Because of the unique, international contract that he signed in 2017, so will Lourdes Gurriel Jr.