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News and Notes: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. says he wants to be a Blue Jay for life, José Berríos added a cutter, and more!

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Photo credit:Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brennan Delaney
1 month ago
Who doesn’t love some News and Notes.
We have a #NewPitchAlert, the Blue Jays top prospect is throwing again, and perhaps there’s some news on Matt Chapman. Let’s dig in

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. wants to be a Blue Jay for life

According to ESPN’s Enrique Rojas, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has no hard feelings regarding the arbitration battle he and the Blue Jays had. Moreover, Rojas reports that Guerrero Jr. wants to be a Blue Jay for life.
 
Of note is that Guerrero Jr said that the Jays haven’t offered him a long-term deal, even though he would like to remain a Blue Jay for life. However, it’s easier said than done because it’s hard to know which version you’ll get with Guerrero Jr.
The 2021 season was the closest he’s ever looked to being that generational talent he was touted as when he was a prospect. That year, he slashed .311/.401/.601 with a career-high 48 homers in 698 plate appearances, along with a 12.3 BB% and a 15.8 K% for a 166 wRC+ and a 6.3 fWAR.
Even the 2022 season was a good one for Guerrero Jr., as he slashed .274/.339./.480 with 32 homers in 706 plate appearances. However, he declined in .264/.345/.444 with 26 homers in 682 plate appearances for a 1 fWAR and a 118 wRC+, his lowest mark since the 2020 season.
There’s a lot of risk in giving him a life-time contract because for three of the five years he’s been in the major leagues, he’s looked like a slightly above-average first baseman, rather than an All-Star.
Still, the Jays should do everything in their power to sign him to a long-term deal before he hits free agency after the 2025 season.

José Berríos added a cutter

It appears that Berríos is adding a cutter so that he has another pitch to throw the left-handed batters, per Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae.
Furthermore, he had an interview with the broadcast immediately after pitching, where he told Dan Shulman and Buck Martinez that Pete Walker suggested he throw the cutter and it’s been in the works since last season.
Another interesting tidbit in the interview is when Berríos said that it took him four or five days to get over being pulled in Game Two of the Wild Card series, but he and the team sat down and spoke about it.
Berríos had a great bounce back season in 2023, posting a 3.65 ERA and a 3.99 FIP in 189.2 innings pitched. Moreover, he had a 23.5 K% and a 6.6 BB%, a valuable member of the starting rotation last season. Hopefully his 2024 will be even better!

Blue Jays projected to be the seventh-best defensive team

Last season, the Blue Jays led the league with 85 Defensive Runs Saved, nearly 20 more than the next best team, the Milwaukee Brewers (68). This was mainly composed of four players, Matt Chapman, Alejandro Kirk, Daulton Varsho, and Kevin Kiermaier.
This season, they are projected to have 23 defensive runs according to MLB.com, which would rank seventh in the league behind the New York Yankees (24), Colorado Rockies and Texas Rangers (27), Arizona Diamondbacks (28), Chicago Cubs (35) and Cleveland Guardians (47).
Despite losing Chapman, they replaced him with a good defender in Isiah Kiner-Falefa, so expect the Blue Jays to once again be near the top of the league in defence.

Ricky Tiedemann threw a side session

Top prospect Ricky Tiedemann was slated to start the first game of spring training, but was pulled due to a left hamstring issue. According to Sportsnet’s Arden Zwelling, he threw a side session on Thursday, the first time he pitched on a mound since the injury.
Last season with Single-A Dunedin, Double-A New Hampshire, and Triple-A Buffalo, Tiedemann finished the season with a 3.83 ERA and a 1.98 FIP in 47 innings pitched. Moreover, he had a 43.7 K% and 12.2 BB% with a mid-90s fastball that has touched a tick under 100 mph, with two plus secondary pitches.
It’s important that the 21-year-old left-handed pitcher has a full camp, as he may pitch for the Jays at some point in 2024.

The latest At the Letters

On Wednesday evening, Sportsnet released the latest At the Letters podcast with Arden Zwelling and Ben Nicholson-Smith. Aggregated by the wonderful Josh (@Josh_theJaysFan on Twitter), here are some key points from the podcast.
To me, there are two interesting topics to talk about – Daniel Vogelbach and Chapman’s hypothetical deal. Starting with Vogelbach, it appears he and Spencer Horwitz are battling for the backup first baseman/designated hitter role. 
Vogelbach has the experience, slashing .220/.342/.410 in 1878 career plate appearances, along with 80 home runs and a wRC+ of 110. He smacks right-handed pitching, and sending Horwitz down could give him more plate appearances than he would otherwise get with the Jays.
There were a few interesting notes about Chapman, but as Spring Training is nearly a week in, he has to sign soon, right? It wouldn’t be all too surprising if a team offers Chapman a similar contract to what Cody Bellinger got – a three-year, $80 million deal with opt-outs after the first and second season.
Of course, the Jays will get a pick at the end of the fourth-round if he signs with another team, as they offered the third baseman a qualifying offer which he rejected. But the pick attached appears to be slowing down his market, as the signing team will lose a second-round pick and maybe a fifth-round pick if they went over the competitive balance tax the season prior.
Still, you’d imagine the Jays are interested in re-signing Chapman, as there’s still a gaping hole at third base.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.

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