Russell Martin weighs in on Blue Jays’ handling of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Watch as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. gets a standing ovation in his first MLB at bat.

April 26, 2019 will long be known as the dawn of a new Blue Jays era in Toronto, the date that saw highly touted prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. arrive in his new city amid a flurry of standing ovations, media madness and chants of ‘Let’s go, Vladdy’ echoing from the 28,000-plus on hand to catch his debut.

But while the Blue Jays faithful revel in the long-awaited beginning of their young star’s big-league career, one of the club’s former mainstays says he isn’t pleased with just how long the wait was — nor the reasons for the delay.

“Do I like it? No,” said Russell Martin, now of the Los Angeles Dodgers, to the Los Angeles Times‘ Bill Shaikin Friday. “But I understand it.”

Despite Guerrero Jr. reigning as one of baseball’s top prospects — if not No. 1 altogether — for years, the Blue Jays delayed the 20-year-old’s major league debut ostensibly to guarantee an extra year of control over their potential superstar (through 2025, rather than 2024).

Martin, a 14-year big-league vet who spent the past four of those in his native Toronto, took issue with his former club’s service time strategy.

“They can say whatever they want. They try to make smart decisions. Whether they want to admit it or not, it is a business move, right?” Martin said. “Whether we criticize it or not, they have a purpose to what they do.”

That said, the veteran made clear he understands why Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins took the approach they did.

“They’re trying to find the time where they’re going to have the best window. That’s just what it is,” Martin told Shaikin. “What if you get one up too early, and you get to a point three or four or five years down the road where you need the cash to get that one free agent you want and, if you would have waited that extra month, you could have had him?”

Service time issues and long-term delays aside, the wait finally ended Friday with Guerrero Jr.’s first game as a major-leaguer. His impact was felt, both in the stands and on the field, where he earned a double in the ninth before Brandon Drury’s walkoff homer sealed the win over Oakland.

A grand story for Guerrero Jr. and Toronto, without a doubt. But, according to Martin, one that shouldn’t have taken this long to come.

“If somebody is good enough to play, they should play,” Martin said. “The business side gets in the way of that sometimes.”


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