Mark Shapiro speaks on polarizing handling of Vlad Guerrero Jr.

(Photo courtesy: MLB Network)

With everything that’s gone wrong for the Toronto Blue Jays on and off the field this season, there’s been plenty of debate and disagreement amongst fans on how the team’s front office has dealt with a number of different issues.

By far the biggest of those has been the handling of Major League Baseball’s top prospect — one that many (most) feel shouldn’t be a prospect any longer.

Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro went on MLB Network Radio Wednesday to discuss the philosophy behind the club’s decision to keep Vlad Guerrero Jr., off of a big-league field this season:


“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 and continue to develop. We think 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.”

The business side that Shapiro is referring to here is MLB’s absurd service time rule which is forcing teams to choose between seeing elite prospects for a month as September call-ups or keeping an extra year of control when the player is in their prime.

The choice, though it shouldn’t have to be made, is an easy for most clubs. Jeff Passan broke down the rule and how a certain team executive feels about it on Tuesday:

The current rules state that a player needs 172 days for a year of service and six full years of service before he reaches free agency. If Guerrero or Jiménez debuted now, they would build up about 30 days’ worth of service time. By quashing any thought of a promotion now, it forces the teams to continue the empty excuses through spring training and the first two weeks of the season. By then, when a player can no longer accrue 172 days, he can be summoned for his debut, that extra free agent season secured.

“I hate doing it,” said one of the many general managers who has engaged in service-time manipulation. “But if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing my job.”

When you dive into the rule and really think about the bind the collective agreement has put organizations in when it comes to elite, young prospects, it does make business sense for the Jays to avoid wasting a full year of Vlad’s service time for a few meaningless September clashes.

The fact that Shapiro is pretty clearly, in some way or another, lying about the team’s reasoning for keeping Vlad Guerrero Jr., out of Toronto’s September call-up rotation is the real head-scratcher out of all of this, and will surely draw increased scrutiny to the team’s front office from a frustrated fanbase looking for honest answers about the team’s direction.

During the interview with MLB Network on Tuesday, Shapiro continued to beat the old ‘Vlad still needs to develop the rest of his game in the minors’ drum.

“I think back a lot to my experience with Manny Ramirez and the fact that when he got to the big leagues, he was so underdeveloped as a defender and a baserunner that it took years for him to catch up in those areas,” he said.

Because the one thing we all remember about the great Manny Ramirez was how many times he got caught stealing, right?