Two of the most talented players in Triple-A will remain there throughout the month of September. Third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez will not receive a cup of coffee in the majors this month, per recent announcements from the Blue Jays and White Sox, respectively.
To those well-versed in MLB service time rules and practices, this news induces a reaction closer to a yawn than a surprise; teams have been using the service clock to manipulate team control for quite some time, and there was no reason to believe that would change in regards to Guerrero Jr. or Jimenez. Recent examples of players whose service time has been suppressed by their respective teams in order to yield them an additional year of team control include Kris Bryant, George Springer and Ronald Acuna Jr., and that list is far from complete. Others still, including the likes of Francisco Lindor, have been held in the minors long enough to reduce their earning power.
That doesn’t mean agents are quieting down about the issue, though. Both players’ representatives have been vocal in regards to their clients’ dearth of a promotion, as well they ought to be considering they’ll miss out on a significant amount of money. Jimenez’ agent in particular blasted with White Sox for service time manipulation. “Especially with elite players like Eloy and (Blue Jays top prospect) Vlad (Guerrero) Jr., that’s the nature of the business,” said Dan Kinzer. “It’s not about the money. It’s the extra year of control.” Similarly, the MLBPA has spoken out against Chicago and Toronto on the subject.
Perhaps J.J. Cooper of Baseball America put it best in his recent piece on the subject: it’s impossible to objectively argue that these players don’t deserve a call up based on performance. Guerrero Jr. has hit .336/.414/.564 with a microscopic 7.8% strikeout rate since his promotion to Triple-A this season, while Jimenez owns an even more excellent .355/.399/.597 line to go along with a 13.2% strikeout rate. Put simply, opposing pitchers aren’t fooling these prospects, and there’s no real reason development-wise that they ought not be exposed to major-league pitching. That’s particularly true in light of the fact that the White Sox promoted low-ceiling prospect Ryan Cordell, while the Blue Jays selected Triple-A veteran Rowdy Tellez. Whatever good there is to say of these young players, any attempt to argue that they’ve done more to earn a promotion than Guerrero Jr. or Jimenez would require a staggering amount of cognitive dissonance.
These teams are clearly planning to restrain their top prospects within the confines of Triple-A until the third week of April 2019, regardless of how well they hit. That’s the point at which they’ll be guaranteed an additional year of team control that allows them to keep those future superstars around through the 2026 season rather than hit free agency after 2025. It’s a distinction that could potentially cost them eight figures in earning power apiece depending on how they develop in the majors.
The question I want to pose is, how do you feel about the overt suppression of service time to manipulate a player’s team control? (Poll link for app users)