The Toronto Blue Jays won't promote top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to the majors this season, and given how he has performed, the Major League Baseball Players Association is not happy about the decision.
The union issued a statement, per SportsNet's Shi Davidi, regarding Guerrero's minor league status even as the rosters expanded when the calendar flipped to September:
"The union's position on service-time manipulation is clear, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and other great young talents around baseball have earned the right to play on the field for a major-league team. The decision to not to bring him up is a business decision, not a baseball decision. It's bad for the Blue Jays, it's bad for fans, it's bad for players and it's bad for the industry."
That comes one day after Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro went on SiriusXM's MLB Network Radio and denied that the organization was trying to manipulate the system:
Shapiro said (h/t ESPN.com):
"It has nothing to do with business. It has nothing to do with anything other than we think the best thing for him developmentally is to go play in Arizona (in the fall league there) and continue to develop. We think that when he gets here, which would obviously not preclude him from making the team out of spring training next year, which would be evidence of that fact, we think he's got a chance to be an impact player."
Keeping Guerrero in the minors prevents him from accruing service time, thus allowing Toronto to maintain longer control of him. And considering the team sits at 63-77 and well out of the playoff picture, it may not be in the best interest of the club to start his clock in a lost season.
On the other hand, it's tough for the organization to claim the prospect isn't ready for The Show. The 19-year-old Guerrero—the son of Hall of Fame outfielder Vladimir Guerrero—hit .381/.437/.636 with 20 home runs, 29 doubles, one triple and 78 RBI across four minor league levels this season.
Meanwhile, 2015 American League MVP Josh Donaldson made just 26 appearances at the hot corner in Toronto this season before being dealt to the Cleveland Indians last month. Between the injury and the trade, it appeared there could be a chance for Guerrero to get his feet wet this year—but that won't happen.
Guerrero is hardly the only top prospect to have service time possibly factor into his call-up. The players association field a grievance on Kris Bryant's behalf against the Chicago Cubs in 2015—a case that is still pending.
Toronto may gain an extra year of control by manipulating the system, but it could wind up costing the club in the long run. If Guerrero lives up to the hype, he and his agent may not forget this drama when free agency arrives.