Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. is the #1 prospect in baseball, but the Toronto Blue Jays recently announced they were calling up another top prospect from the club’s farm system (Danny Jansen) to replace the injured Yangervis Solarte, in a case of “service time manipulation.” Though the team loses financially in the short-term (think: increased ticket sales, merchandise sales), by leaving Guerrero, Jr. in Triple-A through the first 3 weeks of the ’19 season the club picks up an additional year of the player’s services prior to free agency; Guerrero will be 26 in ’25 and theoretically in the prime of his career. It’s worth mentioning that Jansen won’t be the only rookie on the Blue Jay’s September 40-man roster; Sean Reid-Foley made his MLB debut for the club on Sunday August 12th.
Howie Long-Short: No one debates that it’s in Jays’ best interest to leave Guerrero toiling in the minors through early next season. The team isn’t making the playoffs and it makes little sense to trade a full year of a star in his mid-20s for a couple of weeks of one at the age of 19; it’s also been theorized that club could save upwards of $30 million by pushing his free agency back a year.
What I don’t understand is why Jays’ fans would support ownership’s decision. There’s a quid-pro-quo between sports fans and their favorite teams. The franchise makes its best effort to win, in exchange the fan pleads his/her loyalty. Fans can’t expect teams to always put a winning product on the field, but they should be able to expect their favorite team puts its best product out there. The Jays intentionally keeping Guerrero down, to save Rogers Communications (RCI) money 7 years down the line, violates that agreement.
I’m also baffled as to why working class fans would back ownership’s decision to restrict an employee’s earning potential. As Keith Law wrote, “how many fans cheering on service time manipulation would be cool with their employers denying them a tenfold pay increase and forcing an extra year of indenture on them?”
Fan Marino: Service time manipulation is certainly not a new tactic, the Cubs did it with Kris Bryant, yet some are calling Guerrero Jr.’s case the most egregious in baseball history. The son of a Hall-of-Famer, Guerrero is hitting .339/.437/.576 in 17 AAA games; including a recent span where he hit a home run in 4 straight games.
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