Toronto Blue Jays uber prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is ready for the majors. After hitting .402 in Double-A and .336 in Triple-A last season, he has nothing left to prove in the minors.
But he’s going to begin the season in Triple-A, because that performance wasn’t good enough for Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins.
— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) February 26, 2019
Atkins said of Guerrero, “I just don’t see him as a major-league player. He’s 19.”
This is, sadly, to be expected from Atkins. The Blue Jays are incentivized to keep Guerrero in the minors for a few weeks in order to gain an extra year of control on him in the future. In order to justify the move, team officials make up weak excuses like this because they can’t outright say they are intentionally manipulating a player’s service time.
This has been an ongoing problem in baseball the past couple seasons. The Chicago Cubs did it with Kris Bryant — who isn’t a fan of the practice. The Atlanta Braves did it with Ronald Acuña. The Blue Jays will do it with Guerrero.
They will do it with Guerrero despite the fact that he’s undoubtedly one of the best 25 players in the organization and the consensus No. 1 overall prospect in baseball.
Guerrero received an 80 prospect grade according to Baseball America, the highest grade possible on the scouting scale. The publication says Guerrero “might immediately rank among the top overall hitters in baseball.”
Guerrero won’t break camp with the Blue Jays because the team has prioritized winning more games in 2025 than right now. For about three weeks, Blue Jays fans will have to watch their favorite team knowing one of its best players isn’t there.
A common refrain when teams do this is that the players agreed to this in the collective bargaining agreement. Minor-league players are not part of the union, meaning Guerrero is being punished for something he can’t control.
That argument also ignores that the players agreed to this deal in good faith that teams wouldn’t exploit the rule. Front offices know what they are doing is exploitative, which is why a general manager can never say they are manipulating service time. That would give the players all the evidence they need to file a successful grievance.
Instead, general managers like Atkins say stuff like this hoping fans either won’t care, or are too foolish to realize what’s actually going on.
The 2019 Blue Jays aren’t expected to be a playoff team. FanGraphs projects them to win 77 games. Maybe they’ll win more in 2025.
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