The importance of a Vladimir Guerrero Jr. rebound cannot be overstated for the Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays Workout
Toronto Blue Jays Workout / Mike Ehrmann/GettyImages

It’s going to be either ‘Vlad Jr. is back’ or ‘Vlad Jr. stayed behind” …

These are not the words of some sentimental journalist, but of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. himself. The Blue Jays slugger has been known to give a good quote, but this time, he’s really hit the nail on the head.

After breaking out in 2021 and looking like perhaps the best hitter in the game, the past two seasons for Vladdy have been … not bad, but decidedly not as good. Though he will only be 25 this season, it feels like the year when the true trajectory of his career will be revealed once and for all, when he will definitively reclaim his place as the generational talent he was always supposed to be, or settle in as a fun but ultimately middle-of-the-road player.

In many ways, the Jays franchise as a whole is staring at a similar crossroad, the seemingly limitless potential of 2021 and 2022 quickly devolving into a now-or-never moment, a final chance to seize a place among the game’s genuine contenders, or be left behind.

The two are, of course, inherently intertwined. At the center of the Blue Jays’ all-or-nothing cocktail, Vladdy is the straw that stirs the drink.

If he again performs like one of the best hitters in the game in 2024, it allows the entire roster to settle in around him. It allows Bo Bichette to be Robin, not Batman, and the team’s wily veterans – Springer, Turner, perhaps Joey Votto? – to be exactly that, wells of grit and experience, rather than those asked to carry the lineup. It allows the young players room to breathe, to try and to fail and try again, and the pitchers room to feel as though the game is not riding on every pitch.

But it’s more than that.

As far as his Blue Jays career goes, 2024 is effectively a contract year for Guerrero. Yes, he will enter the season with two years left before he hits free agency, but if he does not sign a long-term extension before the start of next season, then it is almost certainly not going to happen. In fact, if he doesn’t sign a long-term extension before the start of the 2025 season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was not on the team on Opening Day.

Add Bichette to the mix, who is in the same contractual boat, and this year becomes an inflection point for the Jays franchise, a season which will ultimately determine whether they move forward into a decade of contendership built around their homegrown heart of the order, or fade away and start again.

Whatever the future holds, here is the good news. A massive rebound may just be in the cards for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in 2024. Indeed, a buzz is beginning to percolate around baseball.

Baseball Prospectus has already highlighted him as a prime “bounceback candidate,” while Rotowire took it further and put Vladdy among “MVP frontrunners.” Elsewhere, FanGraphs’ seminal Steamer projections have Vladdy hitting 35 homers with a 143 WRC+ in 2024. For comparison, a 143 WRC+ would have ranked in the top ten in baseball last year, just ahead of Bryce Harper, and just behind Juan Soto. Oh yeah, and MLB The Show named him their 2024 cover athlete

If Vladdy really is back, it will portend big things for the Jays in 2024, and perhaps for the franchise moving forward. But if Vladdy really is back, forget what happens next year or the year after that, and just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Will Vladdy rebound for the Blue Jays in 2024? Moreover, will he even be a member of the Jays after 2025? Let me know on the platform formerly known as Twitter – @WriteFieldDeep.