Blue Jays Continue to Fall Behind on the Contract Extension Wagon

While teams continue to extend core players, the Blue Jays have yet to jump on the trend with the likes of Bichette and Guerrero Jr.

DETROIT, MI - JULY 08: Bo Bichette #11 (L) and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays look on in the rain during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on July 8, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Blue Jays 2-0. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The Toronto Blue Jays have been one of the more active teams over the past few seasons when it comes to free agency, signing players such as Kevin Gausman, Hyun Jin Ryu, Chris Bassitt, and George Springer (amongst others) that had immediate impacts on the big league roster.

This complemented the homegrown core of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Danny Jansen, and Alek Manoah quite well, which is one of the reasons the Blue Jays have made the postseason three times since the 2020 campaign.

While the front office has been strong on the free agent front and some trades (Matt Chapman deal with Oakland for example), they have been lacking in one department that is picking up some steam as of late; extending their young stars.

Over the past few seasons, teams across the Major Leagues have been signing homegrown core players to long-term deals, with contracts ranging anywhere from 6 -14 years and even more with options.

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Most of the players signed to these deals are players close to arbitration, locking down their homegrown talent before having to go through the process, while some teams are committing money and years to players who are just getting their feet wet in the big leagues but are betting on them becoming a key part of the future for the club.

Some clubs are even signing top prospects to long-term deals before they even reach the Major Leagues, attempting to save money in future arbitration years while the player locks down guaranteed funds and increased job security over the next decade.

Blue Jays have yet to jump on the contract extension wagon

Most recently, Bobby Witt Jr. and the Kansas City Royals agreed to an 11-year extension worth $288 million guaranteed, although options and other incentives could see the total value rise to $377 million.

It’s a similar idea to what the Seattle Mariners and Julio Rodríguez agreed to before the end of the 2022 season, where various options and incentives based on different individual awards could see the total value rise to a maximum of $470 million over the life of the deal.

These deals are complicated in nature but teams across the league are starting to secure star players for the long haul, keeping the likes of Witt Jr. and Rodríguez with their respective clubs for their prime years and likely for most (if not all) of their big league careers.

Other players to sign long-term contracts with their respective clubs include Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres), Ronald Acuña Jr. (Braves), and Jackson Chourio (Brewers), who has yet to make his big league debut but is already committed to Milwaukee for at least the next eight seasons.

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For the Blue Jays, they have yet to jump on the extension bandwagon so far for their homegrown talent.

Toronto boasts at least two players that fit the bill such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, who are both set to become free agents following the 2025 season.

They also have a few other players that could be worthy of an extension such as Danny Jansen (eligible after 2024), Cavan Biggio (2025), Jordan Romano (2025), and Alejandro Kirk (2026), albeit to less money compared to Guerrero Jr. and Bichette.

Per Spotrac, the Blue Jays will only have four players with guaranteed contracts following the 2025 campaign (not including arbitration-eligible players) and would be without Jansen, Bichette, Guerrero Jr., and Romano in this scenario, as all would be free-agent eligible with no guarantee of their return.

It was a serious enough concern for José Berríos, who signed a seven-year extension with Toronto during the 2021/2022 offseason, that a player option was added after his fifth season in the event the tides turn and core players start leaving and a rebuild potentially starts to come into focus.

To make matters even more complicated, the Blue Jays recently went to arbitration with their star first baseman, losing to Guerrero Jr. in the process that will now see him earn $19.9 million this season. The club was able to avoid arbitration with Bichette, signing the shortstop to a three-year deal last winter (before his hearing), although the club did not buy out any of his free agent years.

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Why the Jays decided to not find a way to avoid arbitration with Guerrero Jr. is puzzling.

Even with the club considered a ‘trial and file’ team, the $1.85 million difference between the two sides is pennies on the dollar for a club owned by Rogers Communications and is already over the first threshold of the CBT, although they now jeopardize potential future contract negotiations with one of its top players.

Even if the club wants to pursue extending Bichette over his teammate (should there only be enough room to sign one long-term), this whole process could have been avoided in what has already been dubbed a disappointing offseason for Canada’s only Major League squad.

To be my own devil’s advocate, there is also a scenario where the club has been pursuing an extension with the likes of Bichette and Guerrero Jr. but the demands are not suitable for the player, as it does take two to tango in this scenario.

Considering these discussions are typically behind the scenes and off the record, we will likely never know the answer to where any potential discussions went but there is a chance that both players are dead-set on testing free agency to maximize potential earnings while Toronto may have presented a fair offer for their services and were denied.

Both the Jays and the players have presented the typical statements of being open to an extension, with Guerrero Jr. even confirming last year that the two sides discussed a deal but couldn’t find common ground. Until the pen is put to paper, it is all smoke and mirrors.

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There also is the potential that any long-term deal can backfire for the Blue Jays, evident by how Scott Kingery didn’t pan out with the Philadelphia Phillies or how the Tampa Bay Rays are currently in limbo with Wander Franco’s off-the-field issues, but those are risks that many Blue Jays fans are willing to take with either Bichette or Guerrero Jr given the current trends of both players.

No extension for Bichette or Guerrero Jr. yet

While ownership has given the Blue Jays front office the freedom to spend, surpassing the CBT last year for the first time in franchise history, there remains the everlasting discussion of what could happen in the coming years.

The playoff contention window remains high for the Jays even with the past two seasons of disappointment in October but there is a lingering threat of a rebuild on the horizon if Bichette and Guerrero Jr. decide to fly the coop.

Looking ahead, the Blue Jays would be wise to at least keep one of Bichette or Guerrero Jr. on the squad for the long-term for their play on the field but also their recognition with the fanbase, a commitment to keeping homegrown talent in Toronto. Only time will tell if the tides change but for now, both players remain without extensions as the 2024 season comes into focus.