Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro appeared on MLB Network Radio on Wednesday. When asked by super-prospect Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. was not called up after rosters expanded on September 1, Shapiro said the decision “has nothing to do with business.”
The full quote:
It has nothing to do with business. It has nothing to do with anything other than we think the best thing for him developmentally is to go play in Arizona [fall league] and continue to develop. We think that when he gets here (which would obviously not preclude him from making the team out of spring training next year, which would be evidence of that fact), we think he’s got a chance to be an impact player.
Guerrero, 19, spent most of his season between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo. Overall in the minors this year, he hit .381/.437/.636 with 20 home runs and 78 RBI in 408 plate apeparances. Guerrero is rated as the Jays’ best prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline.
Shapiro’s justification is obviously bunk and it will be proven to have been bunk when Guerrero doesn’t make the Jays’ 25-man roster out of spring training next year, just like the Braves with Ronald Acuña and the Cubs with Kris Bryant. Guerrero would accrue service time for the time he would be on the Jays’ roster this month, so Shapiro and his cabal want to ensure he doesn’t reach Super Two status and that the organization gains an extra year of contractual control over him. The decision to keep Guerrero off of the major league roster has everything to do with business. All the talk about helping him develop is hogwash.
The Twins didn’t want to add Byron Buxton back to the active roster after the minor league system ended. GM Thad Levine said, “I think part of our jobs is we’re supposed to be responsible for factoring service time into every decision we make. … We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we weren’t at least aware of service-time impacts on decisions we make.”
Levine did what Shapiro did not: he said the quiet part out loud. We always have this song-and-dance about every big-time prospect that doesn’t get called up. Normally, front office execs lie through their teeth and make up some excuse, like Shapiro did, justifying keeping a star player in the minors. That creates plausible deniability and the system continues uninterrupted.
The MLBPA seems to be taking issues like service time manipulation more seriously, having recently hired a new chief negotiator. When the current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1, 2021, hopefully the union will have successfully argued in favor of changing this system which prevents teams from putting together their best possible rosters and fans from seeing their favorite teams’ best and most exciting players.