Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is one of the most exciting prospects in recent baseball history. His name alone breeds excitement — his father is a Hall of Famer and one of the brightest stars the sport had in the last few decades. But his son, who turns 20 in less than a month, is hardly riding coattails; he’s obliterated every level of competition he’s faced so far in his young career.
By any objective measure, Baby Vlad is ready for the bigs. ESPN.com’s Keith Law ($) said his ceiling might be “right-handed David Ortiz.” His personality and his prodigious blasts certainly remind folks of Big Papi.
Just look what he did a year ago in the Blue Jays’ final Spring Training game:
The sport needs him. Not only is Baby Vlad ready to play, but the fans are ready to separate themselves from their cash to see it happen. He’s a marketing dream. Young, charismatic and an extremely dynamic hitter. Homers sell, dudes.
Blue Jays fans are excited. Heck, baseball fans are excited. Baby Vlad’s arrival in the bigs has been unfortunately delayed by some service time machinations, but surely that’s all over now. I mean, he pulverized the minors last season, slugging over 600 percent and getting on-base at a Votto-ian clip. Surely he’s coming up on Opening Day!
You know, I bet the team is getting some cool merchandise ready right now for his —
I’m sorry, hold on. What’s that? Oh. I’m just now getting word that the Blue Jays are not doing that.
“There’s no firm timeline on when he arrives or when he is playing in Toronto for the first time, but we want to make sure he’s the best possible third baseman and the best possible hitter he can be,” Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins told Keegan Matheson of BaseballToronto.com.
First off, Atkins is lying. He’s lying and he knows he’s lying. There isn’t a credible person alive who thinks Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has a single thing he needs to learn in the minor leagues. He’s burned it all to ash. There’s nothing left to study. It’s like telling Genghis Khan he should go back and study how to sack Baghdad again.
Anything less than Major League pitching stunts Guerrero Jr.’s growth and potentially reduces his ceiling. He can’t become the best hitter he can be without hitting Major League pitching.
Yes — the defense is a problem. He’s huge and shows no signs of shrinking. Big deal. If he hits like Frank Thomas it simply doesn’t matter. That’s absolutely no reason to do what the Jays are suggesting.
Atkins lied because telling the truth is untenable. The truth is, the Blue Jays are going to delay calling up Baby Vlad — who will undeniably help the team win games now and sell tickets now — because if they delay his debut far enough into the season, the club pushes his free agency back a year. This happens every year and it absolutely, positively sucks. It hurts the game.
From a contract perspective, sure it makes sense. The Jays get to keep their young budding superstar around for an extra year at far, far below market value. But it breeds discontentment with your fans and that budding superstar. Plus, you know, if your goal is to actually win, having your best players on the field for all 162 games seems like a good idea? But what do I or the countless other writers and players saying the same thing know?
Is service time manipulation worth it? The answer is no. It’s wrong and the teams know it.
Consider what Vernon Wells had to say:
Astros pitcher Collin McHugh chimed in, too:
The Blue Jays are not alone in doing this. The New York Yankees did it with Gleyber Torres last year; the Cincinnati Reds might do it with Nick Senzel this year. It’s a common practice and it should be done away with because it hurts the game.
Also, owners? You might want to start paying attention to the discontent brewing amongst your players. The absurdly frigid free agent market plus the poor treatment of minor leaguers on top of antics like with Baby Vlad are mixing up a cocktail that no one wants to drink.
Bad winds are blowing, folks. The word strike has been thrown around more than once. We could be in for a rough go of it once it comes time to discuss a new CBA in 2021.
As for the Jays, they might sense the temperature in the room and bring up Vlad Jr. to open the season. I hope they do. It’s the right thing for the team, the player, the fans and the sport overall. Make the right choice.