With teams across the MLB extending their young prospects through the arbitration years, the Toronto Blue Jays would be wise to throw some money towards some of their young prospects now before it is too late.
The Toronto Blue Jays are currently still in the rebuilding stages and possess quite a few prospects and younger players on their active roster.
Two of the top prospects in the MLB find themselves on the Blue Jays roster in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, both of whom had productive rookie seasons and will be a major force on the team over the next few years. Bichette is currently entrenched at shortstop for the foreseeable future, while Guerrero Jr. may see a position change to either 1B or the DH role, but will always find a way to step in the batter’s box on a nightly basis.
With controllable years worth its weight in gold in the baseball universe, the Toronto Blue Jays sit in a position where extending their young prospects to long-term, guaranteed money deals early on may actually benefit both parties over the next 5-7 years.
One of the reasons this method may benefit the Blue Jays is because the arbitration process can cause a rocky relationship between the organization and the player.
Arbitration pits the player and the organization against one another to figure out a 1-year contract, with a third party arbitrator sometimes being needed to determine the end dollar value, leaving one party a winner and one being a loser. This process can be tough for players to hear, considering they are being told by a team of lawyers from the organization on why they don’t deserve what they think they are worth.
Players like Marcus Stroman and Trevor Bauer have been pretty outspoken about this process and the impact it can have mentally when heading into the next season. It seems better to just avoid this process altogether to avoid hard feelings and promote a positive relationship between player and management, which could benefit both parties when the player reaches the free-agent years and the organization looks to re-sign said player.
Another reason for signing Guerrero Jr. and Bichette early in their careers is that by giving the players guaranteed money and long term contracts early on, the organization could possibly save money if either player has a fantastic, MVP caliber season during the arbitration years and can earn substantial money on a year to year basis as Kris Bryant did this past off-season ($18.6 million) and will before the 2021 season.
The guaranteed money allows the player to capitalize on their success and potential early in their career, as well as provide a more stable economic forecast for the organization when it comes to determining payroll and contract commitments further down the road. This could be useful for a team like the Blue Jays, who have numerous prospects and other players who are also just starting out in their MLB careers, and will be looking to increase their salary in the next few years and will be needing updated contracts whether through arbitration or pre-determined deals.
Of course, this idea only works if both parties are on board, which is why this discussion could turn sour if the player wants to test the open markets of free agency regardless of how their current contract is structured. Guerrero Jr. also sits in the same position as Kris Bryant, where the organization kept him down in the minor leagues to gain an extra year of control (a CBA loophole if you will), and Junior could harbor some resentment towards the Blue Jays over how that situation was handled (major keyword here being ‘could’).
There is also the risk that either player loses their mojo and/or doesn’t live up to their potential, but there will always be that sort of risk with any type of long term contract, whether the player is a rookie or a 7-year veteran (sorry Chris Davis).
In the end, I would rather see the Blue Jays lock up Bichette and Guerrero Jr. now in order to avoid the arbitration process, but also possibly save some headaches and overspending when both players reach arbitration in a few year’s time.
Both Bichette and Guerrero Jr. have the potential to be impactful, everyday players that could really benefit the Blue Jays squad, and I would prefer them to be happy with the organization over the next 6-7 years than have them battle with management every step of the way, leading to a messy divorce like the fans saw this past season.