Vladdy Jr. would fit in really nicely in pinstripes, even if it’s a supreme long shot.
There have been reports in recent days that teams have called the Blue Jays on their young star players. Nothing is imminent, and any deal remains unlikely, particularly between Toronto and the Yankees. But at this point in the offseason, it’s proper to leave no stone unturned.
A couple of days ago, we discussed the possibility of Bo Bichette here, and this time around we’ll talk about the other big name in the room, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Vladito looked like the next big thing in baseball following his otherworldly efforts in 2021, which may have resulted in MVP honors if not for Shohei Ohtani.
Don’t get me wrong, Vladdy has still been effective since then, and it’d be very difficult to live up to those numbers from his breakout season, but it’s also undeniable he’s taken a bit of a step back. A .179 ISO, the mark he put up last season, is not exactly what the Jays signed up for. Vladdy finished 2023 with 26 homers, his lowest mark in the past three seasons, and a .788 OPS.
All of this being said, he’d still cost the moon, both for the high floor of production he brings and his sky-high potential. It shouldn’t take too much of an adjustment to get Guerrero back closer to producing at the level he found in 2021. Even in a relative down year, he still hit the ball harder and struck out less than the vast majority of hitters. His xwOBA, per Statcast, was in the 94th percentile. Even if his topline numbers from last year don’t scream “superstar”, Guerrero might not be far off from regaining his status as an upper-echelon pure slugger.
Both Guerrero and Bichette are under control through the end of the next season, and with each passing offseason the likelihood that the Jays will be able to retain both long-term diminishes a little more. Controllable through multiple seasons, and importantly still at arbitration costs, Guerrero would surely fetch quite the haul for Toronto.
A few points must be made regarding the fit with the Yankees. For starters, yes, Vladdy dabbled with playing third base in his rookie year, but that’s not coming back anytime soon. It was always pretty clear he would be a first baseman/designated hitter. So what does that mean for the Yankees, who have both of those positions kind of filled up thanks to Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo? Well, for one thing, if the Jays were to move him it doesn’t necessarily mean they’d reset to a big rebuild, and that presents some interesting possibilities.
Rizzo experienced a steep decline in production last season, but most of us rightfully attribute a good chunk of that to the post-concussion syndrome he played through, after his collision with Fernando Tatis Jr. Rizzo probably has some gas left in the tank, he’s just not quite at Vladdy level, and if the Jays were inclined to, the Yankees could eat up some of Rizzo’s contract and send him to Toronto.
Without the Blue Jays taking Rizzo, this would be just about undoable for the Yankees, especially with Stanton locked up midterm. As long as Stanton is on the roster, the Yankees will presumably give him chances to work the DH spot.
All in all, the Jays are unlikely to deal a star to a division rival, and the Yankees don’t necessarily need corner-only right power hitters. But talents like Vladdy are rare, and if teams are at all considering moving them, the Yankees have to at least make a call. With Rizzo at age-34 and in the final guaranteed year of his contract, the Yankees don’t have anything set in stone at first base beyond this year. They should be open to any and all ways to make an upgrade.