Recently, we have been talking about the near-certain upcoming manipulation of No. 1 overall prospect Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.’s service time by the Blue Jays. That his service time will likely be manipulated comes as no surprise, as the same was done to Kris Bryant a few years ago when he was an über-prospect. The Braves didn’t have Ronald Acuña Jr. open the season on the major league roster last year so they could gain an extra year of service time as well. The Phillies did the same with Maikel Franco. Bryant and Franco, in fact, filed grievances that ultimately did not go anywhere.
Service time manipulation is one piece of the puzzle in the current labor climate in Major League Baseball. We also seen a stagnant free agent market, which has encouraged younger players to agree to team-friendly contract extensions well before they reach eligibility for free agency. Ultimately, these are issues that will need to be addressed when the current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season.
In the meantime, front offices will continue to deflect as they gain that precious extra year of contractual control. Last week, Jays GM Ross Atkins said of Guerrero, “I just don’t see him as a major league player.” In the minors last season, Guerrero obliterated pitching to the tune of an aggregate .381/.437/.636 triple-slash line with 20 home runs and 78 RBI in 408 plate appearances. He had a .323/.425/.485 line in 2017. Atkins cited defense and a “physical aspect” — presumably referring to Guerrero’s weight — to defend having him start the season at Triple-A rather than on the Opening Day roster of a rebuilding team.
Despite this, Major League Baseball’s own social media accounts have found Guerrero major league enough to post about him.
Guerrero’s double above was from Sunday afternoon’s Grapefruit League game, which went viral because he one-armed it.
MLB even promoted Guerrero last year, quoting Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, who said, “I think he’s going to be just as special as [Vladimir Guerrero, Sr.]” Vlad Sr., who spent 16 seasons in the majors, is a Hall of Famer, too.
I propose a rule: If Guerrero is good enough for MLB to drum up excitement around him and profit off of his image, then he’s good enough to not be disingenuously stuffed in the minors for two weeks (or more) to start the season.