According to a report from Jon Heyman of FanCred Sports, it sounds like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is not happy about sticking in the minor leagues all year.
When Major League Baseball has to negotiate their next agreement with the Player’s Union, I have a feeling things are going to get ugly, and hopefully it won’t lead to another lockout of any length.
One of, if not the most significant issue that the union will bring up, is how “service time” has become a hot button topic, and things aren’t trending in the favour of the players. To sum it up, some teams may be (definitely are) holding back their top prospects in order to manipulate their contract control, thus keeping them in the organization for an additional year. It’s not technically against the rules, but it’s definitely not something that the players or their agents want to see happening with regularity.
There have been several recent examples, but it looks like the Blue Jays may have one of the headliner cases when this eventually comes to a head. We watched it happen this year when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was the consensus best hitter in MiLB baseball, but that never lead to a promotion to the highest level. It’s possible the Blue Jays would have had no choice if he hadn’t suffered an injury in the middle of the season, but they managed to make it through the year without adding him despite his .381 batting average and 1.073 OPS over a few levels.
Whatever their justification, it sounds like Guerrero Jr. isn’t buying it, which I would have to say is a little more than understandable. In fact, according to a report from Jon Heyman of FanCred Sports, it sounds like it’s possible that Vlad Jr. may even file a grievance against the Blue Jays sometime in the not so distant future. It hasn’t been confirmed if he and his agents are planning that course of action, but they wouldn’t be the first to do so.
Oddly enough, there are two significant grievance cases still open right now for some pretty important MLB players. Kris Bryant filed one after having a similar treatment as a rookie in 2015 with the Cubs, and Maikel Franco did the same with the Philadelphia Phillies after his call-up was seemingly delayed. According to Heyman’s article, it sounds like Eloy Jimenez may do the same with the Chicago White Sox after they kept him in the minors this year as well despite a star-level performance.
The more that players band together on this issue, the more likely it is that front offices will have to address it, and that includes the Blue Jays with Guerrero. The expectation all along is that they would start him in Buffalo next year so they could gain one more year of contract control, but if Guerrero is already upset, then they may want to re-consider that decision for the sake of the long term relationship.
It’ll be an interesting scenario to watch in Toronto, and across all of baseball over the next couple of seasons. It’s not a great thing that the Blue Jays could be potentially sparring with their top asset, but it’s also not an isolated case, and there’s a good chance that most non-contenders would have handled Guerrero in a similar fashion this year.
It’s definitely a situation worth monitoring over the coming weeks and months though, and hopefully Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro can navigate things without doing any damage to the relationship.