The Blue Jays and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. agree to a $14.5 million deal for the 2023 season to avoid arbitration, by Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.
Guerrero Jr., who has spent his entire career as a member of the Blue Jays organization, was baseball’s universally recognized top prospect heading into his major league debut in 2019. Although his first season was strong for a rookie, she failed to live up to those lofty expectations as he undercut .271/.339/.433 (106 wRC+) in 123 major league games. The shortened 2020 season was more or less the same for Guerrero Jr. as he posted a wRC+ of 110 while largely repeating his 2019 stats, with slight improvements to his ISO and strikeout rate at stick being largely nullified by a drop in his BABIP.
Guerrero Jr. has delivered on his promise of top prospect status and then some in 2021, though. In 161 games, Guerrero Jr. cut a phenomenal .311/.401/.601, good for a whopping 166 wRC+ that led the slugger to not only his first All Star appearance, but also a second-place voting MVP behind Shohei Ohtani. After that banner season, Guerrero Jr. came down to earth somewhat in 2022, though he was still much better than he had been in the first two seasons of his career. A slant line of 0.274/0.339/0.480 was good for a wRC+ of 132, a second All Star appearance and some downside MVP votes.
The $14.5 million deal equals the record set by Pete Alonso earlier in the day for the highest salary among umpire-eligible first basemen, but Guerrero Jr. does it in his first year of umpiring when Alonso is already in his second year of umpiring. eligibility for arbitration. Guerrero will be eligible for arbitration again next offseason and before the 2025 campaign, and is expected to become a free agent in the 2025-26 offseason. It’s possible Toronto will lock down Guerrero Jr. before that, though, given the slugger publicly stated he was open to a long-term extension earlier this offseason. Today’s deal doesn’t preclude a longer deal later this offseason, although there haven’t been many rumors of such a deal in the works so far.