Blue Jays agree to arbitration deals with 11 of their 12 eligible players

Guerrero Jr. the only holdout. Romano agrees to a $7.75M one year deal for 2024, Varsho settles at $5.65M, and Jansen agrees to $5.2M.
Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

With each of the Blue Jays and their AL East peer Orioles, Rays and Yankees having a large class of ten or more arbitration eligible players, Thursday’s accelerated deadline to exchange 2024 salary numbers between players and teams was sure to generate some offseason activity for a ‘hot stove’ that’s been decidedly low on firewood of late.

Significant deals included the Yankees Juan Soto agreeing to a new one-year arbitration record $31M deal, which breaks the previous $30M high set by Shohei Ohtani in 2023. Mets 1B Pete Alonso will make $20.5M in his final year of arbitration eligibility before potentially becoming a free agent after the upcoming season; Corbin Burnes of the Brewers will also earn $15.6375M in his final year before free agency.

While the vast majority of arbitration eligible players have now agreed to contracts for 2024, there are some notable exceptions who’ve decided to exchange figures ahead of potential arbitration hearings, led by Toronto Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who MLB Network’s Mark Feinsand reports did not reach agreement.

Blue Jays Signings

Last fall, MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected salaries for arbitration-eligible players. The 12 eligible Blue Jays were seen signing one-year deals worth $58.2M for the upcoming season, led by Guerrero at $20.4M, Jordan Romano at $7.7M, Daulton Varsho at $5.5M and Danny Jansen at $5.2M.

11 of those 12 players in fact agreed to one year contracts for a total value of $39.1M, but that figure does not include the $20.4M projected arbitration salary for Vlad. As per Sportsnet’s arbitration tracker here:

  • Guerrero did not come to an agreement. He was projected by MLBTR to earn $20.4M. According to Shi Davidi, the Blue Jays filed at $18.05M and Vlad is at $19.9M.
  • Romano settled for $7.75M to avoid arbitration ($7.7M MLBTR estimate).
  • Varsho agreed to a one-year, $5.65M contract for 2024 ($5.5M MLBTR projection).
  • Jansen avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $5.2M one year contract, in-line with MLBTR’s projection.
  • Cavan Biggio agreed to a one-year deal with $4.21M ($3.7M projection).
  • Tim Mayza agreed to a one-year deal worth $3.59M ($3.3M projection).
  • Erik Swanson agreed to a $2.75M deal ($2.7M projection).
  • Santiago Espinal agreed to a $2.725M contract for 2024 ($2.5M projection).
  • Alejandro Kirk agreed to a $2.8M contract ($2.6M projection).
  • Trevor Richards agreed on a one-year, $2.15M contract ($2.4M projection).
  • Génesis Cabrera agreed on a one-year, $1.5125M contract ($1.4M projection).
  • Nate Pearson agreed to an $800K deal, in-line with expectations.

As for Guerrero, he’s now submitted his $19.9M, as have the Blue Jays at $18.05M, and they will be scheduled for an arbitration hearing on a yet to be determined date likely in February.

Because the Blue Jays are a “file and trial” team, the only way to avoid a messy arbitration hearing now would be for them to agree to a multi-year contract extension with Vlad, much like Toronto’s front office did last year with Bo Bichette.

If they do go to an arbitration hearing, it would only resolve Guerrero’s salary for 2024. And arbitration decisions are binary: the arbitrator can only choose one number, either Vlad’s $19.9M salary request or the team’s offer of $18.05M. That can lead to all sorts of hard feelings between player and team, like we saw in the case of Marcus Stroman’s 2018 arbitration hearing.

In terms of Toronto's payroll, if we add $20M for Guerrero to Thursday’s signings, it implies a competitive balance tax (CBT) payroll of $231M for 2024, which is $27M lower than the 2023 luxury tax payroll of $258M. In his post season press conference last October, team president Mark Shapiro said, “I don’t expect a dramatic philosophical shift in payroll. I expect us to stay in the same area.”

Which, after these arbitration signings, implies there is still room to add some big bats and pitching depth this offseason; and, while it’s disappointing that the Blue Jays haven’t been able to extend any of their young core to longer term deals, that payroll capacity still suggests there is room to do so with Vladdy should they want to explore a multi-year deal to avoid a hearing.