Blue Jays: Ranking the extension candidates by level of importance for the club

Wild Card Series - Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays - Game One
Wild Card Series - Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays - Game One / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

Now that the salary arbitration deadline has come and gone, the urgency for the Toronto Blue Jays to sign some of their players to long-term deals has increased.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. agreed to a $14.5M deal for 2023, essentially punting this dilemma for a year but Bo Bichette didn’t sign a contract which makes for a rather tenuous relationship between player and team until the two sides come to an agreement.

Meanwhile, Matt Chapman is entering a free-agency walk year, and Alek Manoah and Alejandro Kirk were both named All-Stars last year but have yet to reach the arbitration stages of their careers.

5. Alejandro Kirk

Alejandro Kirk was a breakout star in 2022, starting the All-Star game and winning the Silver Slugger Award in his first full-time MLB season. He is entering his final pre-arbitration season, but there could be a wait-and-see approach here after Kirk's numbers declined sharply in the second half last year.    

After Gabriel Moreno was traded away, it’s clear that the team is moving forward with Kirk and Danny Jansen behind the plate, both of whom have controllable years left. It would be proactive to get some contract talks going in them meantime and see how Kirk fares now that he’s a known commodity and may be asked to carry less of the load.

4. Alek Manoah

Alek Manoah established himself as one of the most dominant pitchers in the majors, and although he’s not eligible for arbitration until 2025, there’s still an exigency attached to keeping Manoah in the organization for a long while.

The Jays have the luxury of seeing how this season plays out, and if there’s a drop-off, Manoah’s value could dip slightly. But, like Guerrero, it’s more likely that the opposite happens and the cost to keep the young righthander continues to increase which could spur some action to discuss an extension before arbitration is even close.

3. Matt Chapman

After being acquired from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for four prospects before the start of last season, Matt Chapman is signed for just the 2023 season and will be a free agent if not retained. He seems to like playing in Toronto and has grown as a leader, which is good because he’s one of the few veterans on the infield.

With Chapman, the question is always more about his offensive production rather than his defensive prowess. He’s got the ability to hit for power and has averaged more than 28 home runs over his four full big-league seasons. Both the Blue Jays and “Chappy” would love to see a return to his 2018-2020 form when he averaged an OPS of .841, since 2021 his OPS is a still-respectable .736.

2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Yes, disaster was avoided, and Vlad will be back in the fold with a contract that recognizes him as one of the top young players in the game. While the two sides agreed to delay the huge payday, it did little to ease the anxiety among Blue Jays fans to lock up the team’s superstar.

It’s going to take a lot of money, possibly like the mammoth contracts we saw being signed by cream of this year’s free agent class, but it would behoove Jays management to get this done sooner rather than later. His value will only go up from here and wouldn’t it be a nice complement to the series of moves already made to solidify their franchise player for the foreseeable future?

1. Bo Bichette

Until recent developments, most fans would probably say that signing Vladdy to a long-term extension would be the main priority. However, the fact that Bo and Co. failed to come together on a one-year pact creates a sense of urgency, especially with pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training less than a month from now.

Adding fuel to this potential fire were the reports that the Jays were in hard on the Xander Bogaerts sweepstakes. Maybe that was posturing by agent Scott Boras, maybe the team has had talks with Bo about this or possibly moving to second base, but either way, the timing of the news wasn’t great.  Jays nation will be uneasy until Bichette puts pen to paper on a new contract.

Next. Four 2022 Blue Jays moves that exceeded expectations. dark