Blue Jays: MLB might have to do something about service time

MIAMI, FL - JULY 09: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
MIAMI, FL - JULY 09: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. /

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will not be called up to the big leagues for September, joining several other talented minor leaguers. The MLB may have to address the issue of “service time” sooner later if this trend continues.

The Blue Jays roster has seen quite a bit of turnover in the course of the last month or so. We watched veterans like J.A. Happ, Seunghwan Oh, Steve Pearce and more moved in July, and on Friday the Blue Jays traded Curtis Granderson and Josh Donaldson as well.

The result is a much younger lineup, something the Blue Jays and their front office have expressed interest in for a couple of years now. The youthful talent is obvious, whether it’s Lourdes Gurriel Jr’s hitting streak, Danny Jansen’s quick adjustment to the next level, or even the performance we witnessed from Sean Reid-Foley on Sunday. These three and more provide Blue Jays fans with a reason to look forward to the short term, and even immediate future.

All that said, the Blue Jays have decided not to call up their top minor league prospect for September, an unsurprising, if not frustrating piece of news for the final month of the season. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will have to wait until next season to play his first MLB game, much to the chagrin of fans and writers around the game.

More from Jays Journal

Baseball’s number one prospect isn’t alone in having to wait for a promotion, and if you’re looking purely at the numbers then one would think he would have been called up earlier this summer. However, ability in the minor leagues is just a piece of the puzzle for elite prospects these days, and it’s a trend that is arguably growing in the wrong direction.

Some folks have been critical of the Blue Jays for not promoting Guerrero when his bat is clearly ready. However, he’s far from the only standout player in the minor leagues this season who has had to wait for a call-up. We saw it happen in Atlanta with Ronald Acuna this year, with Eloy Jimenez of the White Sox, and the same has taken place with others like Kris Bryant of the Cubs as a rookie, or even Byron Buxton this year, who won’t be coming back to the Twins roster for the final month. Buxton is an especially interesting case, because despite struggling with underperformance and injuries throughout 2018, he was a 5 WAR player last season. There’s almost no doubt that the Twins sending him home for the remainder of the year is in the interest of securing his services for an additional year.

Those moves and more are being made in the interest of extending contract control, something that makes total sense for any front office to want. It is a big grey area though, and there’s a decent chance that the commissioner’s office may have to look at the current system with the next collective bargaining agreement begins.

Players and their agents don’t like having their contracts manipulated, but there’s not a lot they can do about it unless it’s a blatantly obviously case. If Buxton and his agent decide to file a grievance against the Twins over his case, and win, it could change the way this issue is trending. There’s no sign that they plan on doing that at this time, but they would certainly have a case if they choose to pursue a grievance. However, it’s worth noting that over at, Matt Snyder wrote about this topic recently and pointed out that Kris Bryant’s grievance against the Cubs is still ongoing from 2015, so it’s hard to say if it’s even worth pursuing for Buxton.

The situation is a little different for Guerrero Jr and the Blue Jays, although the argument for not promoting him is almost as weak. All year long we’ve heard that the young phenom needs to develop the defensive side of his game, and his mid-season injury certainly helped alleviate the pressure on the front office to call him up to the big leagues.

That said, Guerrero proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he could have helped the Blue Jays this season, or at the very least he earned an opportunity to prove that he could. Maybe he would have struggled, and it certainly wouldn’t have made a big enough impact in the standings to matter, but it still left some fans feeling frustrated. A few seasons ago we watched Alex Anthopoulos choose Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro to break camp with the Blue Jays, despite the fact that they were just 20 years old. Now we’re being fed a steady diet of asking for patience, and even if it makes sense on a lot of levels, it’s not easy to justify to the fan base.

This issue likely won’t come to a head before it’s relevant to Vlad Jr’s future, but his case could certainly help the player’s union in the next round of CBA talks if they choose to pursue the issue. The 19 year slashed .382/.439/.637 with 20 home runs, 78 RBI, 28 doubles, and just 38 strikeouts against 37 walks in 353 at bats across two levels. He hit .402 in Double-A before putting up a .340 batting average with the Buffalo Bisons, and routinely looked like a man among boys, when it was quite the opposite.

It remains to be seen if the Blue Jays will employ a similar strategy with other potential young stars like Bo Bichette or Cavan Biggio, and/or if baseball steps in and does something before then. The Blue Jays have other young arms like Eric Pardinho and Nate Pearson who are a few years away, so chances are it’ll be an issue worth monitoring in the coming seasons.

Next. Donaldson on DL, to miss return to the Rogers Centre. dark

For now, GM’s are free to make up other excuses for why they’re manipulating roster time, and in the evolving state of the game it’s hard to blame them. It’s natural to look for any advantage you can find, and until it becomes an issue in the rulebook, chances are it’s going to continue, and maybe even get worse in the next few years.