The All-Star first baseman filed at $19.9 million while the Blue Jays countered at $18.05 million. The independent panel heard arguments on Tuesday and ruled in Guerrero’s favour, according to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. The $19.9 million Guerrero will make during the 2024 season is the largest salary ever rewarded through a hearing.
This was the third pass through arbitration for Guerrero, who made $14.5 million last season, but it was his first time going to a hearing after failing to agree to terms with the Blue Jays by the deadline last month.
Winning his case will be a relief for the 24-year-old. The arbitration process relies on player comparisons and counting statistics. Still, often hearings can be an uncomfortable experience for players, who are essentially pitted against their teams and exposed to reasons why the club doesn’t want to pay them what they think they deserve. Feelings can get hurt and egos can get bruised — and one wonders the impact such an experience may have on a franchise player such as Guerrero.
From an optics point of view, it’s never ideal for a team to go to arbitration with one of their star players and in this case, the two sides were less than $2 million apart, which is negligible in the grand scheme of a Blue Jays payroll that is estimated to be $250 million, per Roster Resource. That said, arbitration is part of the business and, while flawed, it’s the process the league and players union agreed upon to settle salary disputes. Guerrero grew up around the major leagues and is no stranger to the sometimes cold business side of the sport. He understands it’s not personal, but, instead, this is just part of the bargain of playing in MLB.
But this entire situation has also been a reminder that the clock is ticking on the Blue Jays being able to sign either Guerrero or Bo Bichette to long-term extensions before they’re scheduled to hit free agency after the 2025 season. Guerrero will go through arbitration for a fourth and final time next season unless a deal is reached, while Bichette signed a three-year, $33.6 million extension last year that covered his remaining arbitration-eligible seasons.
However, the closer both Guerrero and Bichette get to their free-agency date, the harder it becomes for the Blue Jays to lock them up as both might become increasingly interested in seeing what sort of deals are available to them on the open market.
With his 2024 salary settled, Guerrero can now focus on the upcoming season, when he’ll hope to improve on his 2023 performance, in which he batted .264/.345/.444 with 26 homers. Those are solid numbers but they are far off the high bar he set in 2021, when he batted .311/.401/.601 with 48 home runs and was second in American League MVP voting.
(Photo: Richard Lautens / Toronto Star via Getty Images)