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White Sox contract with Eloy Jimenez brings some good, more bad

Michael Dixon
Eloy Jimenez during spring training came
Feb 18, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox left fielder Eloy Jimenez (74) reacts during spring training camp at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago White Sox and star prospect Eloy Jimenez reportedly came to an agreement on a new contract on Wednesday.

Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that it was a six-year deal worth $43 million. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic added that there are two option years. Passan also added that Jimenez will now start the year with the big club.

For fans of the White Sox — and baseball in general — this is both good and bad.

First for the good news: A star prospect gets to play in the majors.

  • Jimenez clearly does not belong in the Minor Leagues.
  • In Double-A last season, he hit .317/.368/.556 with 10 home runs in 205 at-bats. Upon getting promoted to Triple-A, Jimenez hit .355/.399/.597 with 12 home runs in 211 at-bats. That’s a total of .337/.384/.577 with 22 home runs in 416 at-bats.
  • For comparison’s sake, Chicago’s left fielders hit .237/.297/.388 with 18 home runs. The right fielders hit .233/.272/.434 with 30 home runs, while the designated hitters posted a .218/.301/.405 split with 26 home runs.
  • A full season of Jimenez brings genuine excitement to the White Sox, something they haven’t had in a long time. Remember, this is a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008 and haven’t even had a winning season since 2012.

But unfortunately, that’s where the good news stops.

The bad news: It’s now abundantly clear that the White Sox only kept Jimenez down to manipulate his service time.

  • If Jimenez was genuinely looking to earn a spot on the MLB rosters, he did himself no favors in Cactus League play. Quite the opposite, in fact.
  • Through his first 26 at-bats, Jimenez was hitting .154/.154/.346 with only one home run.
  • In fact, Jimenez had already been demoted to Minor League camp. Upon that demotion, Jimenez said (per Jack Thompson, Associated Press) that he “tried to do too much.”

For all the world, this looks like Chicago was going to keep Jimenez down until mid-April to get an extra year of service time — similar to what the Chicago Cubs did with Kris Bryant in 2015. But now that Jimenez has this new contract, that’s no longer a concern.

Service time manipulation is awful: It benefits absolutely nobody, with the possible exception of cheap franchises.

  • The fans in Chicago (who again, haven’t had a lot to cheer about for a long time) didn’t get to see a potential franchise player. Instead, they were stuck paying to watch some below average players play some well below average baseball.
  • But since the White So were awful last year, they didn’t want to waste a year of Jimenez’s service time on a 100-loss season.
  • The organization will never admit this — it’s illegal, after all. But good luck trying to find a better explanation.
  • Jimenez should have been, at least, a September call-up in 2018. Look at his numbers again compared to what anyone who he would have been replacing was doing.
  • So, Jimenez lost a potential year of earning power in a business where anyone over 35 is ancient.

Now, Jimenez has signed a contract. And despite having a rough spring training, is now set to be in the Opening Day starting lineup less than a week after being demoted to Minor League camp.

So, we have to look at what happened in the mean time: Jimenez signed a very team-friendly deal.

  • Yes, it’s a record deal for anyone who’s never played in a major professional baseball league.
  • But Jimenez has dominated Minor League pitching and is one of baseball’s best regarded prospects. He could bust in the majors. But the chances are much greater that he’ll be a star.
  • And we’re not criticizing Jimenez for taking the deal. Even if it does end up being well below market value, $43 million is still an awful lot of money. It provides incredible security to Jimenez and his family.

That, of course, is good. The problem is that teams are going to see this and naturally, they’re going to wonder if they can do the same thing with their prospects.

Essentially, teams have incredible leverage over any prospects. And, especially when dealing with prospects that come from poorer backgrounds, the teams can essentially tell them to sign the team-friendly deals or risk be sent down.

Mind you, we’re not saying that the White Sox strongarmed Jimenez in such a way. But it’s certainly something that can be done by teams with less than noble intentions.

And in an offseason that’s already seen a lot of labor unrest, that’s a very bad thing.