Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Toronto Blue Jays: Service Time for Dummies

It’s not the clearest of situations, but the service time rule for MLB players is a tool MLB teams are using on their superstars to save a year on their entry-level contracts. The Jays are ready to force their top prospect into this controversial situation, but it’s the right thing to do.

Basically, service time is a way of crediting a year-played on a players contract based on the number of games or days they play with a major league team.

When a player starts the season and stays in the minors for the first eight games of the season it limits them to less than 172 days in the major leagues. This adjusts their season down to less than a full year, saving a full season on their contract. Once a player plays less than 172 days they will not burn a year on their deal.

Sure, that’s extremely simplified and dumbed down, but that’s basically it. Toronto is going to start Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the minors to ensure he’s a Blue Jay for at least one season longer.

And if you think Vlad Jr. missing a minimum of eight inconsequential games to start a meaningless (as far as standings are concerned) season is a bad thing, you might need to give your head a shake.

The argument against the manipulation of the service time rule is that players tend to have harsh feelings towards their ownership and front office because their development is being stunted for a team friendly option that also delays a big money contract. Fair points, but let’s check in on two recent high-value players who went through this process.

Kris Bryant – Chicago Cubs

Bryant being forced down to the minors for the first month of the Cubs 2015 season was a situation just about everyone who follows the MLB foresaw, but Bryant’s agent peddled the situation as a problem.

Bryant revealed there was “no bad blood” with the Cubs organization over the usage of the service time rule after he was called up to the team in 2015. With Bryant as their starting and starring third-baseman, the Cubs went on to the NL Divisional series with a 99-67 regular season record, eventually losing out to the Mets.

Just a day ago, Bryant has now come out saying the service time situation in the MLB obviously needs to change as he enters the season that could have been his new big money contract year. He’s still making $10.25 million out of arbitration, but that could be a fraction of what he’s worth. Weird timing, right?

Bryant played in 151 games, with 559 AB (his third highest in his career), hitting .275 BA, with 26 HR, and 99 RBIs.

Ronald Acuna Jr.

The highly touted prospect in the Atlanta Braves organization, Ronald Acuna Jr., was a victim of the service time rule usage last season. Yes, last season where he was THE breakout star of the season.

The GM of the Braves is a person many Jays fans should be aware of, Alex Anthopoulos, the former GM here in Toronto. AA seemed disinterested in considering the fallout of forcing Acuna to the minors for a few weeks to start the season, with reports suggesting he would make this move “for better or worse.

With Acuna Jr. now the face of the exciting, playoff contending Braves, it’s unlikely there are any hard feelings between the player and his team. He’s the face of the franchise and was still able to tee-off on his opposition last season, despite waiting a few weeks to start.

Last season, Acuna finished the season with 111 GP (injury caused missed time) and 433 AB. He hit for a .293 BA, 26 HR, and 64 RBIs.

What can we expect from the Jays and Vlad?

We can expect Ross Atkins to continue the narrative of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. being sent down to start the season in AAA to work on his defensive play. Also, expect for Atkins to be very open to Vlad joining the Blue Jays when he is ready and able to help the team.

From Vlad, there probably isn’t going to be much of a conversation. He’ll continue to play hard to try and win a starting position in spring training, stating that he just wants to play hard and try and help the Toronto Blue Jays become a better team.

If we as fans can take away anything from the past manipulations of service time, it’s that it is really a non-issue for the team and the player. We will get to see Vlad for a longer period of time in the long run and the team can weigh options on the roster ahead of him.

In the end, the only people who seem to have issues with the manipulation of this rule are player agents. Under the guise of caring for their players, agents are getting their massive paydays pushed back a season with the usage of this rule and are crying ‘development and unfairness’ to try and force their issues.

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