Blue Jays: Take a page from Chicago’s book with Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

SURPRISE, AZ - NOVEMBER 03: AFL West All-Star, Vladimir Guerrero Jr #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats during the Arizona Fall League All Star Game at Surprise Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
SURPRISE, AZ - NOVEMBER 03: AFL West All-Star, Vladimir Guerrero Jr #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats during the Arizona Fall League All Star Game at Surprise Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

After the White Sox signed Eloy Jimenez to a guaranteed contract before his first MLB game, the Blue Jays should consider the same with Vlad Guerrero Jr.

When you look back at the way free agency and player contracts worked as recently as a decade ago, it’s hard to wrap your head around what’s been going on these days in Major League Baseball.

We saw the free agent market take until Spring Training had begun before premier free agents like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado signed their latest deals, while there are still more than useful pieces waiting for a new contract. We also just witnessed arguably one of the greatest players of all-time in Mike Trout sign a record breaking contract, two years before he was set to hit free agency.

For the Blue Jays, a lot of this stuff doesn’t have a direct impact on them, at least not right now. However, there was another contract signed on Wednesday that could and should have some bearing on how the Blue Jays do things, and they might be wise to try and follow suit.

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The White Sox announced that they had signed their super-prospect, Eloy Jimenez, to a six year, 43 million dollar extension that also includes two club options which could take it to a max of eight years and 77 million. All of this before Jimenez has played his first MLB game.

The highly ranked outfielder is widely considered to be one of the top three prospects in the game, alongside the Blue Jays’ own Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Fernando Tatis Jr. of the Padres. The White Sox clearly believe that his potential is more than real, or they wouldn’t go to the lengths to lock him up like this, especially when they have control over his minor league contract for many years.

Where it gets interesting is that Jimenez has already been sent back to minor league camp, and it was widely assume that his service time would be manipulated in much the same way that Guerrero Jr’s was scheduled prior to his injury. It was a bone of contention with Vlad Jr’s camp, and it would have been with Jimenez’s as well prior to the new contract, possibly even leading to a filed grievance in one or both cases.

There are a couple of things to take away from this, and a few reasons why I believe the White Sox just made a very smart investment. First, they don’t have to discuss Jimenez’s contract again for at least six years, and he can now blossom into a premier hitter without worrying about compensation, or where he’s going to play in the immediate, or short term future. They don’t have to worry about upsetting the player and his agent, or about the eventual trips to arbitration that would get very expensive if he matures the way he’s expected. There are a lot of advantages to cost certainty for both sides, and the White Sox can now build around him more easily.

Secondly, they may have just gotten themselves a pretty serious bargain, even if they’re taking a bit of a gamble on an unestablished player. The AAV (average annual value) at 43 million is just over seven million a year, and even if his options are picked up that’s still only a little more than 9.5 million per season.

Do I think the Blue Jays could get Vladimir Guerrero agree to such a deal right now? I actually don’t, but I think opening up the dialogue nice and early would be a very wise thing to do. Guerrero has a chance to be a generational hitter who could make far more than 77 million over the next eight seasons, but that guaranteed money has to be awfully enticing as well. When you consider that there are no guarantees with health or performance, even with the best of prospects, it might be tempting to consider. We just witnessed Trout pass on a chance to hit the open market in a couple years, and it’s possible that if things had all gone well for him in the next two years that he could have left 100-200 million on the table. I’m guessing he’s fine with the 400+ million he ended up with though.

Pair of relievers dealing with elbow discomfort. dark. Next

Assuming that Guerrero Jr. doesn’t start his big league campaign until late April or early May at the earliest, the Blue Jays will have control of his contract for the next seven seasons anyway. If it’s possible to avoid any contract headaches, contentious arbitration hearings down the road, and to establish the top prospect in franchise history right out of the gate, I hope the Blue Jays are at least considering it. The White Sox just set the precedent, and it’s one that could work very well in Toronto, possible even with another talented infielder who beyond just Vlad Jr.