Blue Jays agree with 11 of 12 arb-eligible players

January 14th, 2023

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have avoided arbitration with 11 of their 12 eligible players -- including a significant raise for -- but were not able to come to an agreement with at this time.

Guerrero and the club settled at a salary of $14.5 million for the 2023 season, a bump from the $7.9 million he earned this past year. The 23-year-old hit .274 with an .818 OPS, making his second All-Star Game and earning his first career Gold Glove Award at first base. With two more trips through arbitration for Guerrero, who won’t be a free agent until after the '25 season, that number will rightfully continue to climb.

Bichette, on the other hand, can still continue to negotiate his 2023 salary in the coming weeks. If the Blue Jays and Bichette’s camp cannot come to an agreement, though, his case will head to an arbitration hearing prior to the season, where a panel will hear cases from each side and select the salary put forth by one or the other. Bichette was projected by Cot’s Baseball Contracts to earn $5.75 million in arbitration.

Given that the young core is getting more expensive as the club spends big in free agency, these salary numbers carry great weight in Toronto’s bigger financial picture. There were no major surprises among the 11 who agreed to terms, however, with the group’s overall total coming in close to external projection models.

Blue Jays agreements reached by Friday’s deadline:

1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr.: $14,500,000
RHP : $4,537,500
C : $3,500,000
RHP : $3,150,000
OF : $3,050,000
UTIL : $2,800,000
2B : $2,100,000
LHP : $2,100,000
RHP : $1,500,000
RHP : $1,250,000
RHP : $1,000,000

Among the top earners in these pre-arbitration settlements is Romano, the star Canadian coming off a 36-save season with a 2.11 ERA and 73 strikeouts over 64 innings. The right-hander’s uncanny ability to work out of jams and pitch with runners on base has made him one of the American League’s top relievers over the past three seasons, and at 29, he has three years of team control remaining.

Jansen, still just 27, has been in the organization for a decade and is entering another big year as Alejandro Kirk’s tag-team partner behind the plate. Last season, Jansen hit .260 with 15 home runs and an .855 OPS over 72 games, and with just two years of team control remaining and a very strong reputation throughout the organization, there’s a case to be made for exploring an extension over the next 12 months.

For Varsho, this is his first piece of official contract business with the Blue Jays since coming over in a December trade with the D-backs for former No. 1 prospect Gabriel Moreno and outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. At $3.05 million with three years of club control to go beyond the 2023 season, his number will continue to climb along with the young core that he’s now a part of.

On the infield, Espinal and Biggio will be part of the second-base rotation along with Whit Merrifield. Espinal, a 2022 All-Star, hit .267 with a .692 OPS last season while playing some strong defense, and should continue to see time at third and shortstop. Biggio, whom the Blue Jays are optimistic about in ’23, should also see some time in the corner outfields.

Down in the bullpen, Cimber earned every dollar of this salary bump as the AL leader in appearances last season, with 77. The workhorse, submarining right-hander posted a 2.80 ERA with low walk and home run rates, making him a safe reliever to roll out in nearly any situation. Swanson, who came over from the Mariners for Teoscar Hernández, is coming off a season with a 1.68 ERA and his elite potential should slot him in as the primary setup man ahead of Romano.

Mayza should also return to his role in the seventh and eighth inning after operating as the bullpen’s only lefty for much of the 2022 season, posting a 3.14 ERA. Richards is looking for a rebound this year after posting a 5.34 ERA, but his strikeout rate (11.5 K/9) and a strong changeup point to his numbers improving. Thornton, who was up and down from Triple-A through ’22, will compete for a bullpen spot and could serve again as off-roster depth capable of throwing multiple innings.