Blue Jays, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Avoid Arbitration

The Blue Jays and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are in agreement on a $14.5MM 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 the universally-recognized top prospect in baseball ahead of his major league debut in 2019. While his debut season was solid for a rookie, he failed to meet those lofty expectations as he slashed .271/.339/.433 (106 wRC+) across 123 games in the big leagues. The shortened 2020 season was more of 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 being largely canceled out by a drop in his BABIP.

Guerrero Jr. fulfilled the promise of his top prospect status and then some in 2021, however. In 161 games, Guerrero Jr. slashed a phenomenal .311/.401/.601, good for a whopping 166 wRC+ that led the slugger not only to his first All Star appearance, but a second place finish in MVP voting behind Shohei Ohtani. Following that banner season, Guerrero Jr. came back down to earth somewhat in 2022, though he was still far better than he had been in the first two seasons of his career. A slash line of .274/.339/.480 was good for a wRC+ of 132, a second All Star appearance, and some down-ballot MVP votes.

The $14.5MM agreement ties the record set by Pete Alonso earlier today for highest salary among arbitration-eligible first basemen, but Guerrero Jr. does so in his first year of arbitration when Alonso is already into his second year of arb eligibility. Guerrero will again be eligible for arbitration both next offseason and ahead of the 2025 campaign, and is set to become a free agent during the 2025-26 offseason. It’s possible Toronto will lock Guerrero Jr. up before then, however, seeing as the slugger publicly stated that he was open to a long-term extension earlier this offseason. Today’s agreement does not preclude a longer deal later on this offseason, though there haven’t been many rumblings of such an agreement being in the works to this point.

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