Making sense of a reported eight-year, $100 million deal between White Sox and Eloy Jimenez originally appeared on nbcsportschicago.com
If you thought Manny Machado Twitter rumors were fun, wait till you see Eloy Jimenez Twitter rumors!
One of the featured players in the rumor mill that repeatedly cranked out reports of Machado ending up on the South Side is back with a tweet about a supposed deal brewing between the White Sox and Jimenez, the No. 3 prospect in baseball who was just sent down to Triple-A Charlotte on Wednesday.
SOURCE: OF Eloy Jimenez would be close to reaching a $100 million, eight-year contract extension with the Chicago White Sox, keeping baseball's Top Prospect under club control through 2026.#ZDigital #ZDeportes @z101digital @ZDeportes
— Héctor Gómez (@hgomez27) March 14, 2019
Now that would be a very big deal and one that would keep Jimenez in a White Sox uniform through the 2026 season.
Obviously there are reasons why giving Jimenez an eight-year, $100 million contract at this moment does not make sense, chief among them that he's yet to play a major league game and that's an awful lot of time and money to commit to a player who you don't even know can succeed at the major league level. Let's not forget that Yoan Moncada was, once upon a time, the No. 1 prospect in baseball. Had the White Sox given him an eight-year contract the year before he struck out 217 times, fans would not be happy.
Of course, the White Sox think the world of Jimenez and think he'll be one of the game's elite talents. Still, even in recent deals described as team-friendly - Chris Sale's five-year extension in 2013 and Jose Quintana's five-year extension in 2014 - those players had multiple seasons of big league experience under their belts.
But let's get to why this could be a winner for the White Sox, and unsurprisingly it has to do with the whole service-time issue.
Players typically get three years before arbitration kicks in and three years after it kicks in, keeping a homegrown player under team control for six seasons. If Jimenez doesn't make his major league debut until later in April, which is expected, he would not accrue a full year of service time in 2019 and would be under team control for seven years instead of six. That would make him a free agent after the 2025 season. If he were on the team's Opening Day roster and accrued a full year of service time in 2019, he would hit free agency after the 2024 season.
Call teams that do this "manipulative" if you'd like - and there's a perfectly valid point to be made that such a practice isn't fair to the player - but the truth is that it's well within the existing rules. The White Sox, it should very much be noted, are not talking about service time at all, and general manager Rick Hahn pointed to Jimenez needing to work on his offense and timing when the team optioned the No. 3 prospect in baseball to Triple-A on Wednesday. But teams doing this makes all the sense in the world because it keeps their star players under control for seven years instead of the typical six. It's what the Cubs did with Kris Bryant, and it's the main focus of the conversation surrounding Jimenez and the White Sox, as well as the game's top-ranked prospect, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and the Toronto Blue Jays.
So, to get back to the reported eight-year contract, that would actually make a lot of sense for the White Sox in that they'd then be able to have Jimenez under team control for one more season than they would currently. That's a big deal for a team that hopes to be in the thick of its contention window when Jimenez might hit free agency and chase bigger dollars elsewhere. And if the White Sox can structure the deal similarly to how they structured the aforementioned extensions for Sale and Quintana, which each had a pair of team options on the back end, there could be even more team control far into the future. Though Gomez didn't mention any possible options in his tweet.
It could also represent some significant savings, depending on what Jimenez could receive once arbitration kicks in after the 2021 season. The amount the White Sox could have to pay over the 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025 seasons in arbitration - plus whatever salary Jimenez might have made in the first year of a free-agent deal in 2026 - could easily be more than $100 million.
And there could be some significant team-wide savings, too. As the White Sox look to construct a perennial contender, they're going to need to add some players from outside the organization, including a few making some significant free-agent dollars. If Jimenez were to ink this eight-year, $100 million deal, that's an average annual salary of $12.5 million, not that large a dent in a team's payroll in regards to the luxury tax (and average annual salary is what counts against that luxury tax threshold). If the White Sox wanted to construct a championship roster without going over the luxury tax, paying Jimenez just $12.5 million a year - especially when compared to the potential salaries north of $20 million in his arbitration years - would make doing that a whole lot easier.
And so it's not as black and white as "making no sense" or being a "slam dunk." There are risks and rewards. There's a big risk in handing out a big contract to a guy who's yet to make his major league debut. But there's a big reward in keeping a potential championship core together for even one more season.
As for Jimenez's side of things, how would he feel about such a deal? That's up to the individual player, of course. There are risks and rewards for him, too. He would start making money right away and potentially earn more on a $100 million deal than he would through the normal arbitration process. But it's possible, too, that he could make more through that process. And he'd be hitting free agency a year sooner, with a chance to earn an even bigger payday one year sooner, too.
Such a deal would also allow Jimenez to be on the White Sox roster for Opening Day, wiping away this service-time conversation altogether. But with Jimenez optioned to Triple-A on Wednesday, it would seem strange if the White Sox would then immediately follow with a big contract and a promotion to the major league team without any games being played. But let's remember all the way back to 2008, when the Tampa Bay Rays promoted Evan Longoria from Triple-A to the big leagues on April 12 and announced a six-year deal with three team options tacked on the end six days later.
It wouldn't be at all surprising to see the White Sox complete a deal to keep Jimenez or any of their young stars-to-be on the South Side for a long time. Will this be that deal? Time will tell.