Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s injury a big break for the front office
While the Blue Jays are likely relieved about Vlad Guerrero Jr’s injury solving the service time issue, there’s more to the bullet they just dodged.
If you’ve been following the Blue Jays at all this offseason, then you’re more than familiar with the debate about Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and whether or not he should start the 2019 season in the big leagues. Ross Atkins and the front office can talk all they want about whether he’s ready for the highest level, but we all know it’s always been a service time issue.
Thankfully for the Atkins and the rest of the brain trust, they don’t need to worry about the potential backlash of starting his season in Triple-A now that he suffered a grade one strain to his left oblique last week. He’s expected to miss the next three weeks or so at a minimum, and that will push his MLB timeline back far enough that he won’t be ready to play before the service time issue became a problem anyway.
It’s not exactly what the front office was hoping for I’m sure, but it’s got to be a bit of a relief for Atkins and his team in a weird way. It’s not ideal that their most prized asset is missing the start of the season with a DL stint, or that people are starting to question his conditioning already at such a tender age, but the injury was relatively minor and should be something that the young phenom can move beyond fairly quickly.
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Hopefully now it’ll just be a discussion that’s all been for naught, and there won’t be as much potential for the buddy star to harbour any negative feelings going forward. The idea of his filing a grievance is probably off the table now too, which was a very real possibility, and the reason that we saw Atkins attempt to justify Guerrero being held back with some poorly worded excuses throughout the winter.
The injury also serves as a break for the Blue Jays in terms of an MLBPA standpoint as well. As you’re probably aware, this was the second consecutive winter that the free agent market was completely frigid, and the players association is getting pretty fed up with the way money is being spent in baseball these days. Say what you want about smart spending, but there’s no way that Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel should still be available at this point in the offseason.
That tension has extended into the minor league side of things as well, and Vlad Jr. was set to become the latest poster child for the problems that exist. He wasn’t the only potential star player having his service time manipulated either, as we saw a great performance from Eloy Jimenez of the White Sox last year that didn’t result in a call-up in September, and he’ll probably start the year in Triple-A as well. This type of issue goes as far back as Kris Bryant‘s rookie season, when his delayed start resulted in a grievance being filed against the Cubs.
It’s going to be a major point of discussion the next time that ownership and the player’s union sit down, and I for one am thankful that the Blue Jays won’t be the easiest example to point to. Guerrero Jr. is a potential generational talent, and while you can’t blame the Blue Jays for wanting to have control of his contract for seven seasons instead of six, the optics aren’t great when you’re looking for excuses to hold him back when his bat is clearly ready to make an impact in the big leagues.
For the few out there that believe that the timing of his injury is “awfully convenient”, I would suggest that there is no reason for the top prospect in baseball to play along with a ruse, and I can’t imagine his agent would ever let it happen either, so get that notion out of your head.
Instead, this is a fortunate break for the Blue Jays, even if it comes in the form of an injury to their most valuable asset. He might be slightly delayed, but Vlad Jr. should be just fine to get started on a similar timeline to what the Blue Jays had planned for him anyway, and this way they don’t have to deal with the fallout from the fans, from Vlad and his agent, and maybe as importantly as anything else, contributing to a contentious CBA discussion that’s due to come up in a couple of years.
They say there’s a silver lining in every situation, and for the Blue Jays an injury to the top prospect in baseball is pretty much a textbook definition.