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Blue Jays’ Guerrero Jr. says no hard feelings exist over arbitration hearing, ready to turn the page toward 2024 season

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Photo credit:Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Hall
1 month ago
There is no bad blood between Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Toronto Blue Jays over his arbitration hearing that separated the two sides by nearly $2 million, at least according to the superstar first baseman.
The 24-year-old slugger, reporting to Dunedin, Fla., on Tuesday for the first official full-squad workout at the organization’s player development complex, was awarded $19.9 million by a third-party arbitration panel after winning his hearing earlier this month. It set the record for the highest amount earned, surpassing former teammate Teoscar Hernández.
Guerrero competed against Toronto’s offer of $18.05 million, and he did so while in the room with the arbiters and the club’s representatives, confirmed by general manager Ross Atkins.
Why not let his camp advocate for him rather than risk attending a hearing that could’ve strained his relationship with the team? Guerrero knew his chances of winning were higher if he was there himself.
“If I don’t go, I lose,” Guerrero told reporters Tuesday, including the Toronto Sun’s Rob Longley, via team translator Hector Lebron.
As Longley noted, Atkins hinted that the club’s presentation to the arbitration panel likely would’ve differed from the one they presented had Guerrero not been in the room. Instead of saying something potentially damaging to save a few million, they chose another approach – one that, in the end, lost.
Guerrero said he doesn’t feel there’s the need for any hard feelings to be had. He understands the business side of baseball, and now that his case is resolved, he’s focused on being the best player possible during a pivotal 2024 season.
“They reached out,” Guerrero said. “We had a conversation and they pretty much explained to me and I understand that it’s part of the process for both sides.
“But in the end, you turn the page and it’s good. I’ll be ready to go.”
The three-time All-Star added that he remains open to discussing a long-term extension with the Blue Jays. But there haven’t been any serious negotiations thus far, with the right-handed hitter set to become a free agent after the 2025 season.
Following an underwhelming 2023 performance, Guerrero spent the entire off-season improving several aspects of his craft, both mentally and physically. He altered his workout routine, beginning a new regimen with private trainer Nicole Gabriel, whose profession is located in the Tampa, Fla., area and has included many other big-league players like Randy Arozarena and Adolis Garcia.
The results were obvious for Guerrero, who arrived for spring training noticeably leaner and trimmed down, causing No. 27 to admit he feels much closer to the shape he was in prior to his AL MVP-calibre 2021 campaign.
That is fantastic news, especially for a Blue Jays lineup that ranked middle-of-the-pack in many offensive categories last season. If their most crucial run producer can even come close to replicating his ’21 explosion, which included a career-high 48 home runs, look for this offence to take a giant leap forward in ’24.
“First of all, I believe I had a great off-season,” Guerrero said. “I achieved all the goals I wanted to achieve, getting in shape like I used to be in previous years. I really believed I achieved that and I feel great right now.”
One of Guerrero’s goals over the winter was to enhance his durability, helping him avoid grinding through pain and discomfort over a gruelling 162-game schedule – a feat he couldn’t accomplish a season ago while dealing with minor wrist and knee ailments.
Toronto’s first baseman desires to play pain-free as much as possible this season, allowing him to give the best of himself to his team and teammates every time he takes the field. Now, thanks to his efforts over the off-season that have him waking up fresher each morning, he feels better prepared to deliver on his expectations as a franchise cornerstone.
“If I told you I didn’t play with pain in a lot of games, I’d be lying to you,” Guerrero said. “But that’s not an excuse. It’s part of the game. Sometimes you have to be out on the field and grinding,.
“I would blame that on not having the best preparation in the off-season last year.”
It’s undeniably early, and Guerrero’s true test won’t come until he steps into the box for his first at-bat of the regular season at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays. But for now, the 6-f00t-2 righty is saying all the right things in hopes of getting back to basics.
“In 2021, I prepared myself [for the season] without thinking,” Guerrero said. “I wasn’t concerned about numbers. This year, the same thing. I’m going to not think about putting up any numbers and I think it might work out. Maybe the same numbers. Maybe better.”
The Blue Jays are betting on a return to form from Guerrero – along with several other core hitters, as well – to improve an offence that underperformed by nearly every measure in 2023. They made a few short-term additions around the margins, acquiring veteran Justin Turner and utility player Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
But the brunt of the work will have to come from within, starting with Guerrero.
That’ll mean significantly improving from a disappointing year that included a .264/.345/.444 slash line and 118 wRC+ over 156 games, worth only 1.0 fWAR – a massive decline from his 2.8 rating in 2022 and career-high 6.3 in ’21.

ARTICLE PRESENTED BY BETANO

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