Making a career commitment
As the Blue Jays have built the current roster over the last few years, they’ve done so with the luxury of at least a few young centrepieces. It’s one thing to have one superstar come up through the minor league ranks, but it’s a luxury to have two at the same time.
That’s what we’ve been looking at with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette for a while now, even if neither player is meeting the bars they’ve set for themselves in 2021. If this topic came up on social media a year ago, it wasn’t hard to find fans saying things like “give them 300 million each and call it a day!”, and I’ll admit that at times I’ve been one of them.
As the Blue Jays have gone back and forth between elite and average in 2022, it’s been a reality check for myself, and for the fan base when it comes to the development of young players. It was probably never realistic to expect Vlad Jr. to. match what he did last season, or at least for that to become the benchmark for his success. By almost any metric you can find, he’s still an elite hitter in the American League this year, even if he’s not one of the top two this time around. As for Bichette, I’ll admit that his struggles have been greater, but I’m not about to get too concerned about the long-term future of the 24 year old, even if I’ll admit it’s been an off year for him.
Fast forward to today, and I think you’d find a lot more reluctance among the fan base about a long-term commitment to the pair than you would have a year ago, and I imagine the same could be said for the front office to a degree. That said, I still think there’s a major appetite to make both players long-term fixtures in Toronto, it’s just very hard to imagine what that could look like, or when that commitment could happen.
There were reports of discussions about extensions that didn’t get very far over the winter, and I’d be surprised if that changed over the upcoming offseason. If I’m the agent for either player I would want to be negotiating from a place of strength, and the 2022 numbers may not provide that to its full potential. By waiting at least another year you could give each player a chance to earn more accolades, put up better numbers, get another year closer to free agency, and let the market grow on its own through other players. To that point, I’m sure both players want to see what the next contract for Juan Soto will look like, and he’ll be a free agent in two years if he doesn’t sign an extension first.
This is the kind of decision that the Blue Jays don’t have to make right away, and if I had to guess, I doubt they could get an extension done with either player over the winter for the reasons I’ve described above. On the plus side, that gives them more time to evaluate the market, the future of the franchise, and just how far they’re willing to go with a mega-contract.
As I’ve done with the other situations I’ve described, I’ll give an extremely early prediction for this one too. While I hope both players are playing north of the border for their entire careers, the early favourite has to be Vlad Jr. That could change ten times over the next four years, but as of right now it’s hard to argue against him as the face of the franchise.
As you look ahead to the future for the Blue Jays, what kind of roster decisions do you see coming? Feel free to let me know how wrong I am in the comments below.