For a team that appears to be all-in for a 2023 World Series run after trading five of their top ten prospects from this time last year, and taking their payroll in to the luxury tax penalty zone, it might seem like an odd time for the front office to play “chicken” with their superstar shortstop Bo Bichette.
But that’s exactly what they did by not agreeing to terms for a 2023 contract. Instead the player and team exchanged dollar figures, and — absent an agreement or multi-year extension before the hearing next month — they will go to arbitration, where a panel of arbitrators will hear arguments from both sides, and then choose either the Blue Jays offer of $5M, or Bichette’s number at $7.5M. In his first year as an arbitration eligible player (ARB1), Bichette is the only one of the Blue Jays’ twelve arbitration eligible players for 2023 to not sign a deal yet.
As we'll come to see below, Bichette’s ask is likely unreasonably high; however, the Blue Jays’ counter of $5M also looks below market value. To add intrigue, if player agent Scott Boras is to be believed, Toronto was one of the teams interested in signing former Red Sox star Xander Bogaerts before he signed an 11-year, $280M free agent contract with the Padres.
What’s also a little disconcerting is some of the vitriol about Bichette being posted on social media, calling him “greedy”, “selfish” and worse. Blue Jays fans, let’s take a deep breath here: Bo Bichette was the team’s nominee just last September for the Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to “the player who best represents the game of Baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”
Blue Jays fans also better be careful what they wish for: without Bichette, 24, who led the American League in hits each of the past two seasons, the team is older, less dynamic and likely a third place team in the AL East. Since 2020, Bichette ranks eighth in the AL in fWAR at 10.4, fifth in average at .295, second in hits (after teammate Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) seventh in doubles (82) and sixth in runs scored (230).