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Jays say Guerrero Jr. not quite ready (wink!)

Columnist Bruce Penton looks at when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. might get to play with the Blue Jays
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At the age of 19, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — a Canadian citizen because he was born in Montreal when his dad, Vlad Sr., played with the Expos from 1996-2003 — is, and has been for more than a year, the Toronto Blue Jays No. 1 prospect.

But the prodigious hitter with vast potential will start the season with the AAA Buffalo Bisons until, oh, about the third or fourth week of April.

Seasoning, the Jays will say. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Further development needed, they’ll add. Another couple of winks. Not quite ready yet, the Jays general manager Ross Atkins will repeat. 

While Atkins might wink while uttering those words, Jays’ fans eyes will be rolling. There hasn’t been a 19-year-old player more ready than Guerrero to step into a major league team’s lineup. He slammed 20 homers and batted .381 in AA and AAA last year. But, just as Atlanta kept Ronald Acuna, Jr., down on the farm until late April before calling him up and watching him romp to the National League’s rookie-of-the-year title, Guerrero will bide his time in the minors and the Jays’ brass will continue to fudge the truth about the reason why.

It’s simple, really. If a player is on a major-league roster for at least 172 days, it counts as a full season of service. After six years of service time, the player is eligible for free agency. By not adding Guerrero to the major-league roster until around the third week of April, his 2019 service time is — wow, wouldn’t you know it! — just fewer than 172 days.

The MLB Players’ Association doesn’t approve of such roster manipulation. It tries to provide as many jobs and financial opportunities as possible for its players. But you can’t blame Jays’ management for trying to maximize the availability of a star player such as Guerrero. Jays’ fans may lament the youngster’s AAA stint for three weeks or so, but those same fans will be happy in 2025 when Guerrero is in the final year of his contract — barring the signing of an extension before becoming eligible for free agency.

But if Guerrero is as good as touted, he’ll almost certainly let his contract expire and explore his value on the free market. He’ll look at what Bryce Harper signed for earlier this month — $330 million from the Phillies for 13 years — and harbour similar, or greater, dreams in 2026.

So no, Guerrero is not going to start the season with the Blue Jays. He could hit 20 spring training home runs, drive in 50 runs and bat .625, but Atkins will say that Guerrero needs a little more minor league seasoning.

He’ll wink. And the baseball world will understand.

  • Headline at “Climatologists Find Pitchers And Catchers Reporting Further South Every Spring”
  • Another offering: “Bryce Harper Asks If Phillies Willing To Move To Another City”
  • Patti Dawn Swansson in the River City Renegade:  “The Ottawa Senators’ Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel — all shipped out the same week. Eugene Melnyk — still there. That’s an L of an outfit.”
  • Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg, on Bryce Harper’s record 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies: “The deal includes a lucrative $5,000 bonus for each booed at-bat.”
  • Janice Hough of “At 13 years for Bryce Harper contract, there are kids not even born in Philly who will be booing him someday.”
  • Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, on the Department of Homeland Security establishing a fake university in Michigan to snare undocumented immigrant students: “And the ruse looked so authentic, insiders say, that the school now appears on four SEC non-conference football schedules next fall.”
  • Brad Rock of the Deseret (Utah) News: “The NBA is considering lowering the draft-eligible age from 19 to 18. Wouldn’t it be easier to just move Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina to the NBA?”
  • RJ Currie of “The New York Mets GM said Tim Tebow is just one step away from playing Major League Baseball. Failing that, he might end up playing for the Mets.”
  • Another one from Kaseberg: “Broncos Adam 'Pacman' Jones was arrested for cheating at an Indiana casino. This will add to Pacman's 30 strikes-and-you're-out deal with the NFL.”
  • Dwight Perry again: “Porn star Mia Khalifa underwent corrective surgery that she said resulted from an errant puck rupturing one of her breast implants at an undisclosed Stanley Cup playoff game last year. Junior-high puckheads immediately declared it the No. 1 upper-body injury ever.”
  • Stat of the week, from Perry: “The website crunched the numbers and determined it would take a single Zamboni 693 years to resurface all of Lake Superior.”

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