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How Blue Jays and Berrios completed their $131M, 7-year extension

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TORONTO — Jose Berrios prepares for business with the same tenacity that he prepares for baseball so at the end of each season, he huddles up with his family and his agent to map out the off-season and plot the next steps of his career.

For this year’s gathering, Nick Chanock flew down to Puerto Rico, set up shop in a boardroom at the Dorado Beach Ritz-Carleton Reserve and began the discussion with his understanding of the Toronto Blue Jays’ intentions. “Look Jose,” he remembers telling the ace right-hander, “we need to be prepared because they’re going to put real money on the table.”

Over the four hours that followed, Berrios, with a notebook and pen in hand, sorted through some 40 pages of documents casting into his future. They broke down what his final year of arbitration would look like, assessed the free-agent landscape after the 2022 season, how teams might frame his market value, the risks he faced, where he was comfortable and really bore down on the Blue Jays, right down to prospects deep in the system.

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“It came back to him saying, ‘I really like it here, I like the city, I really believe in this team,’” said Chanock. “We are buying into this young core, this ownership group’s commitment to spending money and the belief that this team is really good.”

From there, negotiations started on the $131-million, seven-year extension Berrios and the Blue Jays finalized Thursday, a contract of significance in many ways. At seven years, it matches the $126-million, seven-year extension signed by Vernon Wells in 2006 for the longest deal in franchise history, and it’s by far the richest the club has even given a pitcher.

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It’s also the biggest contract ever for a Puerto Rican pitcher, the fourth-largest for a pitcher through five years of service time and the 57th most lucrative baseball contract ever in total value, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Escalators based on his cumulative 2025-26 performance could add another $5 million to his $24-million salaries in 2027 and 2028, potentially bringing the deal’s total value to $141 million, which would currently rank 50th in the sport.

That a contract so substantial came together in a matter of weeks is somewhat unusual and speaks to the Blue Jays’ commitment to Berrios, and his trust in the club. He was acquired from the Minnesota Twins on July 30, arrived the next day and 3 1/2 months later surrendered free agency next fall and locked in his prime years.

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“I want to be honest with you guys — I never thought I would be here playing for the Toronto Blue Jays,” said Berrios. “But when I had a chance to come to this beautiful city, this great team, it made me change my mind ….

“Everybody wants to reach (free agency),” he added later. “Me and my group were working on that. When I came here, the way they treated me, the skills they brought to me to be a better person, a better player, obviously better teammate, that changed my mind.”

How the Blue Jays got him there is illustrative of exactly how much they valued a player GM Ross Atkins described as “one of the best human beings in the game.”

First, they sent a private jet to bring him and Joakim Soria, another deadline acquisition, to Toronto and then worked hard to help Berrios acclimate to his new home. Teammates and coaches welcomed him, the front office tended to his various needs and the vibe in the clubhouse and on the field was on point.

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At the same time, Atkins began planting flags, letting Chanock and his Wasserman colleague Joel Wolfe know that they didn’t want Berrios to be a season-and-a-half rental.

“The very first call, was, ‘Yeah, we love this guy,’” said Chanock.

Those initial seeds were important, ensuring that Berrios would take stock of his new home with an eye toward the long-term after a decade with the Twins.

“We started to have some dialogue when we traded for him in terms of understanding desires, things that were important and things that would be helpful to consider,” said Atkins. “When the season ended, it was one of the first phone calls we made.”

That led into the meeting between Berrios and Chanock and the decision to explore an extension.

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The Twins had made a few attempts to extend their beloved ace over the past four years but the sides never got close, leading to the deadline deal for prospects Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson. Berrios didn’t want to spin his wheels again, something Chanock conveyed to Atkins, and “from the very get-go, they meant business.”

Berrios set a rough deadline of Sunday night to get a deal done because he didn’t want the distraction of a negotiation hanging over him when he started his off-season workouts Monday.

“What made this negotiation unique,” said Chanock, “was that I feel like they negotiated with a tremendous amount of respect for Jose as a person. It didn’t feel like anyone was trying to pick his pocket. It was the opposite. It felt like we really want you.”

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Said Atkins: “The most important factor was the mutual interest. Once we gauged that early on, we wanted to make sure that we maximized that opportunity and made sure that interest was felt. So as we talked to Jose and talked to Nick, we asked about this potential window. Once we had that opportunity, we wanted to make sure that we were respectful as possible with it.”

Finding direct comps for Berrios was a challenge, in part because of the remaining year of arbitration, but Patrick Corbin’s $140-million, six-year deal with the Washington Nationals and Zack Wheeler’s $118-million, five-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies helped frame some of the discussion.

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

A contract structure began taking shape earlier this month and three clandestine meetings during the GM meetings last week in Carlsbad, Calif., further locked in some of the numbers.

As Sunday’s deadline approached, the final sticking point became an opt out after the fifth season. Atkins had never included one in a contract before and the Blue Jays hadn’t handed one out since A.J. Burnett’s 2005 free-agent deal. But Berrios wanted some protection in case the club’s competitive window collapses and a Chicago-Cubs-styled teardown follows, and there’s some risk with cornerstones Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Bo Bichette eligible for free agency after the 2025 season.

A compromise became backloading the contract, with $48 million, or 37 per cent of the total guarantee, coming after the opt out, which he can exercise after 2026. Given the Blue Jays’ intention to run an extended competitive window, they didn’t anticipate the opt out being an issue, while for Berrios it was more a shield from an organizational shift than a sword to extract more money.

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Late Sunday night, the sides nailed down the details and an agreement, pending a physical, was reached.

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“They gave him seven years as a pitcher,” said Chanock. “How many pitchers in this market or in the next couple of home markets are going to get that kind of length? There’s a lot of value in that, especially as a family man, having that consistency. The days of those contracts are more limited from a pitching perspective, given the trends in baseball. It’s a testament to Jose’s work ethic and the Blue Jays being willing to stretch.”

Said Atkins: “I told Nick that we’re usually talking people out of these deals. It was the person, the human, the reliability, dependability, how it aligned with our core and this group, how well it complemented us.”

The biggest hiccup in negotiations?

Well, that came after the opt out was in place and Chanock phoned with the news. Knowing he had to be up early Monday to take his kids to school, Berrios went to bed early and six calls with word of the agreement went unanswered, so the Sunday deadline got stretched an extra day.

The next morning, his wife pointed to his phone told him he had some calls to make, not that Berrios was worried.

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“I felt really comfortable with the way they were working,” he quipped, “so I didn’t have any doubts. They both did really nice work.”





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