Toronto Blue Jays: What else does Vladimir Guerrero Jr. have to prove?

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

Since being moved up to triple-A Buffalo, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. continues to show the Toronto Blue Jays that he’s ready for the move to the MLB.

On the day the Toronto Blue Jays were honouring players who brought back-to-back World Series titles, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. continued to victimize pitchers in triple-A.

For the fourth straight game, the 19-year-old drove the ball out of the ballpark with authority and at this point, it is becoming routine. Every minor league that Vlad Jr. has gone to he’s dominated which makes you wonder when he gets the call to the MLB.

The biggest argument being made for calling up the top prospect in baseball at this point has been starting the clock on service time. Another thing the team wants to see from their young prospect is how he deals with a slump but that hasn’t been the case as of yet.

He has shown that injuries aren’t going to slow him down as he came back from a strained patellar tendon which delayed his eventual promotion to triple-A but that’s it.

In 11 games with the Buffalo Bisons so far, Vlad Jr. is hitting .441/.535/.853 with an OPS of 1.388 which is his highest at any level. Now there isn’t a pressing need to call him up right now but if he continues to produce like he has then it is hard to justify him not getting a chance.

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Back in May, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith spoke with MLB general managers about how they’ve dealt with the decision to bring up top prospects. In those conversations, they all said that they wanted to see consistency in certain areas, especially at triple-A.

They also brought up how the young player deals with stress or a slump which tells an organization whether he would be overwhelmed with the high pressure of playing in the MLB.

At this point, there hasn’t been a challenge tough enough to give Guerrero Jr. any doubt of his ability. Even Bisons manager Bobby Meacham told Sportsnet recently that he’s impressed with how Vlad Jr. has performed and doesn’t have anything to critique.

So why haven’t the Blue Jays tried to see how Vlad Jr. handles a real challenge? It either has to do with his contract status or the front office doesn’t think the time is right.

Bringing him up would certainly provide a boost in attendance and a buzz in the clubhouse. At the same time, there’s a business aspect that the front office is considering. This was a decision Houston Astros GM Jeff Luhnow had to make with Jose Altuve, George Springer and Robbie Grossman.

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Fangraphs which explains the way service time impacts a player’s contract.

"Service time matters because of the way salaries are structured and free agency is granted. A team has the rights to a player until that player earns six full years of MLB service time (there are special rules for players who spend many years in the minors). In other words, as long as your team offers you a contract, you can play only for them until you hit six full years of service. Once you hit six full years, you can become a free agent and sign with any team you like."

How does this impact Vlad Jr. and the Blue Jays decision to call him up? Well if he were to be a September call-up that would initiate his service time towards his free agency window.

The MLB defines 172 days on a major league roster as a year of service time, and the teams have manoeuvred around that by not calling up prospects in September or at the start of the season.

This was the case with Kris Bryant in Chicago and Ronald Acuna in Atlanta who had their promotions delayed until later in the season. It just delays when their service time expires and they can go for free agency.

In the Blue Jays case with Vlad Jr., service time and contracts should play no part in their decision because when the time comes Vlad Jr. is going to earn his big payday.

After 2019, the only contracts that are guaranteed are Troy Tulowitzki and Lourdes Gurreil Jr. Sure they will have to do something with Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman and their other young players but that’s why the team has focused on building a solid prospect pool.

The more young cheap productive players a team like the Blue Jays have, the easier it is to manage payroll. This is why the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees went out to take big swings in free agency and the trade market to put themselves in a competitive window.

Out of all the young players that the Blue Jays have coming up, only Vlad Jr. will be a candidate for a big payday that star players in the league are getting. And when that time comes he won’t even be close to 30. At 19 he still has a long way to go before age becomes a factor.

It is a great benefit that the Blue Jays have yet it appears that they want to control this as long as they can. However, with Vlad Jr. putting up dominant numbers in the minor leagues it sends Blue Jays fans will see that and not be too pleased about saving money rather than trying to compete.

Now there’s no guarantee that this is the reason why but with the way they’ve operated the past couple of seasons makes it tough to argue that idea.

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So hopefully management continues to do the right thing for Guerrero’s development and if that means bringing him up in September, it would mean that he’s earned it like he has shown so far.