Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Wins Arbitration Case Over the Blue Jays

The arbitration panel has ruled in favor of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in his case against the Toronto Blue Jays.

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JULY 23: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats during the fourth inning against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on July 23, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, the Toronto Blue Jays and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went to an arbitration hearing for the first time since the Montreal-born slugger became arbitration-eligible two seasons ago. The team filed at $18.05 million, while the slugging first baseman filed at $19.9 million.

On Wednesday evening, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.com confirmed that the arbiters ruled in favor of the player, awarding Guerrero his desired salary for the upcoming season.

The Blue Jays are considered a ‘file and trial’ organization, meaning once they have exchanged arbitration numbers with a player, the two sides will almost always go to a hearing, unless they can work out a multi-year contract extension.

The front office worked out such an extension last year with shortstop Bo Bichette, narrowly avoiding arbitration by signing the Florida product to a three-year deal worth $33.6 million. While the deal doesn’t dip into Bichette’s free agency years, it helped the Jays avoid a difficult process with one of their core players. They could not escape that process with Guerrero this offseason.

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Arbitration can be a nasty ordeal, as a group of representatives from the team argues why the player isn’t worth the money he is seeking, often to his face.

Many will remember Corbin Burnes’s controversial arbitration hearing from last offseason. The 2021 NL Cy Young winner was upset by what the Brewers organization had to say in regards to why he wasn’t worth the $10.75 million he asked for. The panel sided in the club’s favor, and Burnes made $10.01 million instead.

Looking at the big picture, it isn’t like the Blue Jays can’t afford the extra $1.85 million Guerrero requested. It’s honestly a bit baffling that the club was willing to go through the arbitration process with one of their top players in the first place.

The Jays are one of the only teams in the league that hasn’t joined in on the trend of signing their young players to long-term deals. Clubs like the Royals (Bobby Witt Jr.), the Mariners (Julio Rodríguez), and the Diamondbacks (Corbin Carroll) have done so in recent years. These deals come with some degree of risk, but they can also have many positive benefits both on and off the field, especially for a Blue Jays team that currently has just three players signed beyond the 2025 season (Kevin Gausman, José Berríos, and George Springer; Yariel Rodriguez has yet to officially put pen to paper).

The Jays could have another eight players eligible for arbitration in 2026, but some of their core players like Bichette and Guerrero are currently slated for free agency with no extension talks in sight.

On the heels of his arbitration victory over the Jays, Guerrero has struggled to live up to the expectations he set back in 2021.

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Last season, he posted 2.0 bWAR and a .264/.345/.444 slash line with a 117 OPS+. He led the team in home runs with 26 while adding 94 RBI, but those numbers pale in comparison to what fans saw from the slugger just two seasons ago (48 home runs, a 1.002 OPS, and 111 RBI with a .401 OBP).

Factor in that the one-time Gold Glove-winning first baseman also struggled defensively last year (-6 DRS and a .991 fielding percentage), and it’s not hard to see why the Jays organization might be hesitant to offer the lucrative long-term contract Guerrero is surely looking for. This has led to some discourse within the fanbase about picking Bichette over Guerrero if the team had to decide between extending the shortstop or the first baseman.

Looking ahead to the 2024 campaign, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will be striving to find the 2021 form that made him one of the best bats in the game. The slugger has been training all offseason with a host of big leaguers and is entering the new year in physically better shape, which will hopefully help him on the field.