Vlad Jr. adamant he won't join Yankees: 'I will never change that'

Blue Jays star backs up sentiment with first-inning HR in series-opening win over New York

April 22nd, 2023

NEW YORK -- There are no rivalries without villains, and Yankees fans have their newest candidate after set the record straight at Yankee Stadium on Friday. He will never, ever play for the Yankees.

Over the offseason, Guerrero first said that he would never play for the Yankees in an interview with Dotol Nastra.

Guerrero said that his favorite city to play in outside of Canada was New York, but that’s only because he loves “[crushing] 'Los Yanquistas' (Yankees fans) and the Yankees.” When asked if he’d ever play for the Yankees at that time, Guerrero replied, “No, not even dead.”

Prior to the Blue Jays opening their first series of 2023 against the Yankees with a 6-1 win, though, Guerrero didn’t just double down on that sentiment, he slammed the door shut with a loud bang.

“It’s a personal thing. It goes back with my family,” Guerrero said through a club interpreter. “That’s my decision, and I will never change that.”

Then, just over an hour later, Guerrero stepped to the plate in his first at-bat and launched the second pitch he saw deep to left-center field for a two-run homer. Statement made.

Guerrero’s fingerprints were all over this game, as he later reached base on an infield single, then took a pitch off the left elbow from Greg Weissert. Guerrero stared down Weissert as he removed his elbow pad, which led to a heated exchange with Anthony Rizzo and the dugouts nearly clearing.

Add another layer to a rivalry that’s quickly growing well beyond the fact these two teams share a division. Last season opened with a four-game heavyweight tilt in New York that the two sides split, which included Guerrero’s three-homer game with a bloodied hand, one of the finest performances of his career.

Then, in August, invited Gerrit Cole to “walk past the Audi sign next time” he wanted to do something after the two exchanged some heated words. Saturday’s matchup, coming off Friday’s tense finish? Manoah versus Cole. These are the things that turn good rivalries into great ones, and Guerrero is only adding to the intrigue.

This isn’t something the Yankees, or their fans, are used to hearing, either. New York has been one of baseball’s biggest spenders for years now, handing out megadeals like Aaron Judge’s new nine-year, $360 million contract. Cole, who the Blue Jays will face Saturday, is on a nine-year, $324 million contract of his own.

For Blue Jays fans, it’s welcome news. Guerrero isn’t a villain at all; he’s a homegrown star who is embracing Toronto with both arms, something fans of this club yearn for. This organization has spent years looking up at the Yankees, and until this encouraging expansion of payroll in recent years, the Blue Jays were often stuck trying to outbid a team with a bigger wallet. Guerrero is a young superstar just entering what should be his prime years, too, and at least the next three of those should come in blue and white, not pinstripes.

Just because Guerrero doesn’t see himself in pinstripes, though, doesn’t mean that the allure and history of Yankee Stadium are lost on him. Besides, he grew up around this.

“Since you’re a little kid, you dream to play at Yankee Stadium,” Guerrero said. “It’s always a stadium where you want to come, you want to perform, you want to hit. That’s my mentality all the time when I come here.”

It’s certainly not the stadium that Guerrero takes issue with, and it’s hard to dislike New York City and all it has to offer. It doesn’t sound like Guerrero’s primary issue is the Yankees’ fans, either. While they’re not exactly chanting “Vladdy!” each time he strolls to the plate, Guerrero doesn’t see a major difference in how he’s treated in New York versus any other MLB city.

“I’ll say it’s normal, the way they treat every player,” Guerrero said. “They’re always going to support their team. If I do something good, they’re not going to support me.”

Guerrero isn’t exactly available right now, of course. He’s under team control for three more seasons including this one, taking him through the end of the 2025 season. As other young stars around baseball have signed massive extensions at ages younger than Guerrero, who’s 24, he and the Blue Jays have not reached that “sweet spot” of “shared risk,” as president and CEO Mark Shapiro described it this past winter.

signed a three-year, $33.6 million extension just prior to Spring Training, which didn’t extend his years of team control but did give both sides some certainty. There’s plenty of time for Guerrero’s deal to come, but it hasn’t yet.

Whether Guerrero is a career Blue Jay remains to be seen, but one thing sounds certain: he’ll never be a Yankee.