September arrived in Toronto. The weather began to cool, the Maple Leafs hockey buzz started to rise, and baseball rosters expanded, allowing the Blue Jays to call up a bunch of their best prospects to get some Big League experience at the tail end of a lost season.
While Jays fans — those who are still paying attention, that is — are treated to the likes of Billy McKinney, Rowdy Tellez, Sean Reid-Foley, and Danny Jansen, the biggest name in the entire organization is no where to be found. That’s because the Jays sent No. 1 prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to the Arizona Fall League once the Triple-A season concluded.
Everyone knows what is going on. The Jays are deliberately manipulating Guerrero’s service time, similar to what the Cubs did with Kris Bryant and the Braves with Ronald Acuna, by not bringing him to the big club until a few weeks into the 2019 season. By doing so, they will ensure they get an extra contract year from Guerrero at the end of his rookie deal.
Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro recently told the media that the decision to keep Vladdy Jr. in the minors had “nothing to do with business,” suggesting the player needed further development. Keep in mind that he hit .381/.437/.636 with 20 home runs, 29 doubles, and 78 RBIs in 95 games across multiple levels of minor league ball in 2018.
The Baseball Players’ Union is not impressed by the thinly veiled contract manipulation tactics.
“The union’s position on service-time manipulation is clear, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and other great young talents around baseball have earned the right to play on the field for a major-league team,” said a players association spokesman, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. “The decision to not to bring him up is a business decision, not a baseball decision. It’s bad for the Blue Jays, it’s bad for fans, it’s bad for players and it’s bad for the industry.”
Vlad Jr. is not the first player to go through this. The union filed a grievance on behalf of Bryant in 2015 and the representation of current White Sox top prospect Eloy Jimenez have also threatened to seek legal action.