Skip to main content


Guerrero Jr. waiting on Blue Jays for extension offer

Toronto Blue Jays Vladimir Guerrero Jr. - The Canadian Press

The Toronto Blue Jays are taking their time to determine their long-term plans for star first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Guerrero Jr., who will turn 25 on March 16, had a down year last season by his standards by hitting .264 with 26 home runs and 94 RBIs.

After winning an MLB-record arbitration in the off-season of $19.9 million in the off-season, Guerrero is eligible for one more season of arbitration before he has the right to test unrestricted free agency.

Despite a tense arbitration battle, Guerrero Jr. has consistently said there are no hard feelings towards his club and wants to remain in Toronto. But the Blue Jays have yet to put forward an extension offer.

“I have no grudge against the Blue Jays, despite the tense negotiations I had with the team during salary arbitration,” Guerrero Jr. told ESPN’s Enrique Rojas on Thursday. “It’s just business. I would like to be a Blue Jay for the rest of my career, but the team has not made me an offer yet."

The Blue Jays' hesitancy comes as no surprise to ESPN’s Buster Olney, who says on TSN1050 on Friday that Guerrero’s inconsistency throughout his career and the position he plays makes the team wary.

“If you look at the various positions, there’s a higher value placed on shortstops, centre fielders, and pitchers, while first base is lagging behind,” said Olney. “It’s been more than a decade since a first baseman got a $200 million-plus contract. 

“Vladdy has had some ups and downs, not only early in his career, but he had a down year last year. There [also] has been questioning of his conditioning.”
Olney used Los Angeles star first baseman Freddie Freeman as a comparison for Guerrero. Freeman, 34, is considered to be one of the best first-basemen in the game and signed a six-year, $162 million deal in March of 2022.

If the Blue Jays were to use Freeman’s contract as the framework for Guerrero Jr. next deal, the two sides could find themselves far apart.

“I suspect if the Blue Jays were to negotiate this contract right now, they’d probably be far from where Vladdy would want to be,” said Olney. “I think this is going to be another example where the team is going to feel like they want more information and don’t want to commit long-term in that particular position.”

The delay in contract negotiations could end up being a good thing for both player and team. Guerrero Jr.’s best season came in 2021 where he averaged .311 with 48 home runs and 111 RBIs to finish second in American League MVP voting.

If he can return to that form, Guerrero Jr. will have more leverage in negotiating his next contract and the Blue Jays will feel more confident giving him what he deserves.

“In some respects, it’s good for him to wait so he can come off a launch year before getting into those conversations,” said Olney. “He’ll box the Blue Jays in if he has a great year and I’m sure they’d be happy to have that happen.

Manoah’s struggles raise eyebrows

Another storyline from Blue Jays camp that is drawing the attention of the baseball world is the play of pitcher Alek Manoah.

After finishing third in American League Cy Young voting in 2022, the 26-year-old starter has a disastrous season in 2023, going 3-9 with a 5.87 earned-run average and resulted in a demotion to the minor leagues in two separate occasions.

Coming into this season’s training camp, Manoah has said all the right things about putting last season behind him and working towards finding his previous game.

However, in his first Spring Training start, the 6-foot-6 righty went 1.2 innings, surrendering four earned runs on three hits and hit three batters.

“He raised some eyebrows,” said Olney. “Everybody can see that he put in the work and his better conditioned, but his stuff is not such that he can simply bully hitters. He has to be precise. Coming off all this work he did, to struggle with his command the way that he did, it raised some eyebrows.

While Manoah’s outing is just one instance in Spring Training, there is already some skepticism over whether he is ready to return as a full-time starter with the Blue Jays.

If Manoah’s game does not improve, Olney suspects the Blue Jays are in no hurry to give up on their 2019 first-round selection.

“It makes no sense for the Blue Jays to give up on him. His value would be so low that you’re not going to get anything in return,” explained Olney. “If he struggles coming out of Spring training, I’ll suspect that they’ll slow him down and try to get him right. It’s been two years since he was one of the best pitchers in the American League, so I think you have to wait and hope that it gets better.”

The rest of Spring Training will dictate how the Blue Jays will handle the start of his 2024 season. If he can put his first start behind him and show improvement, that will only build up his confidence for himself and the team.

“If he comes out the next outing and guides his fastball, throwing strikes, and have better command with better results, then [the first start] will basically be forgotten,” said Olney. “It will become part of the narrative that says, ‘After that first ugly outing, he took off.’