Eloy Jimenez, you likely know, is the top prospect in the White Sox’ system. He was just also named to the White Sox’ Opening Day roster. That’s great for him. It’s great for White Sox fans. But Lord Almighty did the path for him to get there stink to high heavens.
- Last summer, Jimenez hit .337/.384/.577 across Double-A and Triple-A despite being younger than most players in both of those leagues. He actually did better at Triple-A than Double-A;
- In September, the White Sox declined to call him up when rosters expanded. When asked why, Sox GM Rick Hahn talked about how all “boxes” need to be checked for a prospect to get a promotion. That the stat line is not enough. He said “our checklist that we want these guys to answer is a little more lengthy than that . . . and not until they’ve answered all those questions we have for them at the minor-league level will we promote them”;
- Because there are no games at the minor league level in September, Jimenez did not get a chance to check any more boxes, of course. He did play eight games in the Dominican Winter League, but that’s not a White Sox development tool. That’s its own thing;
- Jimenez came to camp this spring and made only 26 spring plate appearances. He was nonetheless sent down to minor league camp on March 13 where Manager Rick Renteria said he would “continue to work on his defense.”
- Exactly seven days later the White Sox announced that they were giving Jimenez a six-year deal for $43 million;
- Exactly six days after that, the White Sox announced that Jimenez would make the big league Opening Day roster.
I suppose it’s possible that Jimenez experienced a vast improvement in his defensive abilities and/or checked a certain number of boxes in those few days. However, to paraphrase a Twitter correspondent of mine, it would seem that the biggest thing Jimenez needed to work on was his ability to accept a contract offer which would not allow him to reach arbitration or to reach free agency on a schedule that would cost the White Sox real money. Once cost certainty was achieved — at a cost that is far, far less than Jimenez would’ve likely made had he gone through arbitration and reached free agency in the minimum six years — he was, magically, a much better player.
As we’ve discussed many times here, teams are not exactly great at hiding it when they manipulate a guy’s service time and/or use his lack of leverage against him, but this is the most transparent example of this I can ever recall. The sole criteria for cutting him from big league camp on March 13 was that putting him on the big league roster would start his arbitration and free agency clock. With that consideration removed by virtue of the extraordinarily team-friendly contract to which Jimenez agreed, he was suddenly big league ready. Amazing.
This is rotten as all get-out. Many of you will say things like “hey, that’s just good business sense by the Sox,” but it’s not that simple. Contrary to popular belief, teams are not allowed to manipulate service time like they did here. If they were, they would not tell the laughable lies they do about a guy “working on his defense.” They tell such lies because they are prohibited from making those sorts of decisions solely to save money. If it was allowable for them to manipulate service time you can bet your life that they would crow about doing so, because executives like to crow about doing smart things. They tell the “he needs to work on his defense” lies because they have to to avoid losing a grievance.
Of course, because Jimenez got that contract and is on the Opening Day roster, he will not file a grievance or anything. It would not shock me, however, if the other 29 teams fined the White Sox some nominal amount in their kangaroo court for making that which they at least try to hide on occasion so utterly and pathetically transparent.