The Blue Jays have reassigned third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to minor-league camp, the club announced and Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet was among those to cover (via Twitter). That news brings an official end to the MLB camp experience of baseball’s best hitting prospect.
Guerrero, 19, had already likely wrapped up his spring work owing to the intervention of a recent oblique injury. That nixed any remaining chance that he’d open the season on the active MLB roster — an opportunity that likely wasn’t available anyway, given the front office’s established position on his readiness.
Toronto president Mark Shapiro recently discussed things further, as Nicholson-Smith reported. The club would like to see a “light bulb going off” for the exceptionally talented youngster, who’s expected to be a franchise centerpiece for years to come.
Though he didn’t express any concern with Guerrero’s work ethic, conditioning, or dedication, Shapiro did discuss a need for him (and other young players) to learn how to “live your life with intent.” It’s understandable that the Jays would like Guerrero to seize his full potential with a committed “intent to get better,” though a cynic might be inclined to turn the tables on the front office’s own intentions here. There’s ample reason to believe that Guerrero would be a high-quality major leaguer right now, even if he’s not a fully developed all-around player. And it’s at least fair to question whether his skills and habits will be honed faster in Buffalo rather than in Toronto.
There was one other aspect of Shapiro’s commentary that seems worthy of further attention. The veteran executive said:
“The reality is there’s 50 decisions throughout the day that you can control. If you start to control 38 or 40 of those 50 decisions every day, you’re going to make decisions for Ross (Atkins). Ross isn’t going to have to make them. What you’re ultimately hoping to do is hand the development over to the player.”
We’re all accustomed to hearing pretext for service-time-driven decisions. Some of it has some grounding in reality. Shapiro’s views on players owning their own careers surely have some merit and grounding in good intentions. Vlad Jr. can surely improve his glovework and baserunning as well. But it seems awfully disingenuous to suggest that off-field dedication by a player can “make decisions” for a front office even as teams decline even to acknowledge the often-dispositive influence of long-term player control and financial considerations in promotional decisions.