Bo Bichette’s Three-Year Extension with the Blue Jays Doesn’t Look Like a Comp for Nico Hoerner Talks
I mentioned in the Bullets the other day that I wanted to discuss Bo Bichette’s extension with the Toronto Blue Jays as soon as the numbers were out, and now the numbers are out.
For his three arbitration years, Bichette is getting $33.6 million, according to Ken Rosenthal. He has incentives and escalators that could bring it to over $40 million. The Blue Jays got no options, and no free agent years have been surrendered.
The possible relevance here is for the price tag on Nico Hoerner’s arbitration years, as he is also a middle infielder, around the same age, and in the same service class. Hoerner avoided arbitration with the Cubs at $2.53 million for 2023.
So does the Bichette deal mean that, if the Cubs want to sign Hoerner to an extension, the last two arbitration years are going to cost them at least $11 million (plus free agent escalations from there)? Oh. Probably not. In fact, this deal for Bichette probably doesn’t help Hoerner much at all, even if you are still treating him as a shortstop for deal purposes.
For one thing, part of the reason Bichette’s deal was so large is because of the volume of his playing time. That’s a significant factor in arbitration, and to date, Bichette has played in 393 big league games over the course of his 3 years and 63 days of service. Hoerner has played in just 247 games in his 3 years and 14 days of service. That is a massive difference for arbitration purposes.
For another thing, Bichette has been a shortstop the whole time, whereas Hoerner, who will be the starting second baseman this year, has just the one season at shortstop with the Cubs. A very good season! He was clearly very capable at the position (and he rated much better than Bichette did last year)! But the realities of arbitration are that Bichette, this year, and Hoerner, next year, would be treated very differently from a positional perspective.
And then there is the offensive productivity thus far. Bichette, a .297/.340/.491/127 wRC+ hitter in the big leagues, has been worth 11.8 WAR so far in his career. Hoerner, a .277/.333/.385/98 wRC+ hitter in the big leagues, has been worth just 6.4 WAR so far in his career. The numbers, much as we love Nico, are not really comparable.
Bichette, having so much playing time, and having been worth around 5 WAR each of the last two seasons, could have topped the $33.6 million deal in his arbitration years with relative ease. He had sought $7.5 million in arbitration this year, and if he’d won (or even if he’d lost), continued production would have his second year arbitration number way over $10 million, and then his final year approaching $20 million, based on previous shortstop comps. That is to say, I’m not sure how much the Blue Jays really gave up here, other than now owning the two-year risk that Bichette becomes so terrible or so injured in 2023 that they would’ve wanted to non-tender him (extremely unlikely).
Ultimately, I don’t see this deal as having much of an impact on Hoerner and the Cubs in any direction, even if there are superficial comparisons between the two players in terms of age, service class, and position.