Jays Talk FAQ: Rest aside, it was a mistake to sit Guerrero Jr.


Toronto Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. reacts after hitting into a double play Minnesota Twins during the fourth inning in Toronto, Monday May 6, 2019. (Mark Blinch/CP)

In this regular Sportsnet.ca feature, Blue Jays talk host Scott MacArthur answers some frequently-asked Blue Jays questions.

The Blue Jays returned home from a relatively successful road trip to San Francisco and Chicago to play a Victoria Day matinee against the Boston Red Sox.

It was a game which Vladimir Guerrero Jr. watched from the bench — a "maintenance day," if you will. This caused significant angst among the fan base, which I did nothing to quell because, well, I’m as miffed about this as you.

We’ll start with the question/statement that dominated the day:

Q. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. sitting on Victoria Day is a slap in the face. Explain what happened here?

A. The Mark Shapiro/Ross Atkins front office has taken its brunt of bad publicity. Some of it has been unfair, however, it is easily avoidable decisions like this one that contribute to the broader "this front office is out of touch" narrative.
We all have calendars. We know when the games are scheduled, the opponents and often the opponent’s scheduled starting pitcher well in advance. We all knew Monday marked the third-straight day game following weekend afternoon affairs against the Chicago White Sox. We all knew the defending world champion, American League East division rival Red Sox were making their first appearance of the season in Toronto. We’ve known since late last week that popular former Blue Jay David Price, who throws left-handed (Vladdy bats right-handed making it an ideal matchup), was coming off the injured list to make the start.

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So, knowing he was due for a day off, why not rest Vladdy with White Sox right-hander Reynaldo Lopez pitching Sunday in front of fewer than 20-thousand fans on the south side of Chicago? Why not wait until Wednesday evening, the first time the Red Sox could start a right-hander?

I’m not arguing against resting Vladdy or any other player, a 162-game schedule is a slog and this isn’t 1970 anymore.

But don’t conflate the two issues. A little court awareness would go a long way. Victoria Day is Canada’s unofficial start of summer. A day game on the holiday is bound to draw a larger crowd (the 26,794 in attendance marked the third largest crowd of the season, behind only opening day and, get this, Vladdy’s debut on April 26).

A mistake was made here somewhere. And, no, the bet here is the mistake wasn’t made by manager Charlie Montoyo.

Q. Until ownership is willing to spend more money this team won’t compete with the New York Yankees and Red Sox. When will it spend more money?

A. This is a familiar refrain and it’s understandable. I feel, though, it’s important to explain the service time construct in Major League Baseball.

Players with less than three years of major league service time (that is less than three seasons with 171 days on the active roster/major league injured list) are under complete club control. The teams set those players salaries, usually with incremental raises, but still close to the major league minimum salary of $550,000.

Players with three full years to less than six full years of major league service time are eligible, annually, for arbitration but remain under team control.

Players with six or more years of major league service time are eligible for free agency whenever their contracts expire.

So, when you call in and say, "Pay Vladdy," the above scale shows you the Blue Jays don’t have to pay him yet. The day will come, and if he’s as good a player as advertised, the club darn well better pay him. Same for any of the other prospects who may emerge.

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If a core emerges which requires additional support, via trade or free agency, it’s at that time the franchise must be willing to take on the salaries of those players it acquires. The name of the game here is winning, after all.

The money must be there at the appropriate time. Spending inordinately in free agency now makes no sense. Deep down, you know that once you get past the emotional and visceral reactions you have to watching the current incarnation of the Blue Jays struggle so badly.

No successful team, ever, has been built through free agency. Retaining your own once they become free-agency eligible? That’s different. Pay your players appropriately as they achieve service time and statistical benchmarks.

Q. When do you think Teoscar Hernandez will be back?

A. I don’t know. He has to perform at triple-A Buffalo, particularly offensively, getting back to barreling baseballs. Teoscar is an average defender at best, and seems to be a guy who will always work a near minus-30 per cent strikeout rate with relatively few walks. He’s not a perfect player, few if any are, but if he’s not hitting baseballs hard, he’s not offering much.

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