With growing unrest from the MLBPA during another tepid free agency period, the Blue Jays could do their part to throw a little bit of water on the fire if they so choose, and there’s an argument to made that they should.
Baseball is finally back, or at least the players are back on the diamond and preparing for another MLB season, and that’s plenty of reason for all of us to get excited.
I say that because I’ll apologize for bringing anything negative up during a time when there’s a lot to look forward to in another MLB campaign. However, with the excitement that comes with a new Spring Training getting underway is a growing unrest around baseball, especially with several notable veterans starting to speak out in recent days. That’ll happen when the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel and more remain unsigned, even with players starting to report to camp already.
The lack of spending around the game is one troublesome topic between the league owners and the Player’s Association, but the issues run deeper than that. In regards to the Blue Jays, they have been questioned by some folks like Scott Boras for example, due to their relative lack of spending this winter, even in a pretty large market. That said, I think most people can understand that the Blue Jays are rebuilding their roster and preserving playing time for their youngsters, even if they don’t like the strategy.
More from Jays Journal
- Matt Chapman has been exactly what the Blue Jays needed
- Blue Jays: The goalposts are moving in the right direction
- Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays advance to the Championship Series
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
The other hot issue is MLB service time, and the Blue Jays probably have the latest poster child for the growing problem. For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, the Blue Jays are reportedly planning on starting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in Triple-A Buffalo to begin the year, and so far haven’t determined a timeline for his MLB promotion. Ross Atkins can use all the fancy ways to put it that he likes, but it’s about service time and the Blue Jays’ ability to stretch their contract control from six years into seven. It might feel a little greasy, but it’s also not against the current rules either, which is why things are a little contentious right now in the MLBPA’s office.
Guerrero isn’t alone of course, as Eloy Jimenez was almost as impressive as Guerrero in Triple-A last year, and yet he’ll likely follow the same path in 2019 with the Chicago White Sox organization. There have been plenty of others before as well, including Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs, who even filed a grievance against his team back when they held him back from the big leagues. I wrote about that possibility with Guerrero a few months back as well, but so far it sounds like things are civil, at least in the public eye.
While I do completely understand why Ross Atkins and the Blue Jays’ front office would utilize the rules to control Guerrero’s contract, I wonder if there might not be more value in looking at things through a different perspective. I argued in that previous article as well, and I still think that the Blue Jays could ultimately gain some long term favour with Guerrero Jr. and his camp if they made the gesture of starting his year in Toronto, as his talent and short track record no doubt deserves.
However, there’s also the piece that the Blue Jays could contribute to a more peaceful future negotiation between the owner’s and the MLBPA, which right now doesn’t look good at all. There are even some players like Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals that think it’s possible a walk-out could happen as soon as this season. The players are starting to publicly speak out about the state of free agency, especially at a time when ownership is bringing in record sponsorship and TV rights deals. They’re not happy about stars like Harper and Machado still looking for a market appropriate contract, and they’re not pleased about seeing guys like Guerrero Jr. and Jimenez sitting in Triple-A when they’re clearly ready for the big leagues.
Of course, the Blue Jays could also help the free agent market by signing one of the valuable players that still remain, but it’s hard to imagine them chasing any of the premium options either. Even with perceived available payroll, it’s doubtful that Harper or Machado are coming to Toronto, or even Kimbrel, and for one reason or another the Blue Jays haven’t made a serious play on guys like Keuchel or Marwin Gonzalez either, at least that we know of. Obviously the Blue Jays aren’t going to sign a free agent just to help the MLBPA/Ownership relationship, but it wouldn’t hurt things if they did decide to make a serious offer for someone still looking for their next team.
The Blue Jays don’t HAVE to do anything in free agency or with Vlad Jr., but I would argue that there are a few reasons that they should consider the bigger picture, which could include doing a small part in hopefully avoiding a player’s strike, or a potential lockout scenario of some sort. Nobody wins in that scenario, and while the Blue Jays are playing by the rules with everything they’re doing right now, I still loathe the idea that what’s going on with Vlad Jr. will more than likely be a talking point of the next CBA discussions.
As fans face the prospect of a potentially frustrating rebuilding year, the buzz around Guerrero has been a welcome topic all winter, and especially now as the top prospect in baseball has reported to Dunedin. I’m sure the Blue Jays will ultimately start his season in Buffalo, but if they really wanted to send a message to their young phenom, to their fan base, and to the rest of baseball, it’d be nice if they would reconsider. That’s my two cents anyway.