LAS VEGAS – Fully understandable, members of the Toronto Blue Jays front office are measured when they talk about Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Why make life harder for a teenager by raising expectations higher than they already are? There is little to gain and much to lose.
But around baseball others are more than happy to burn hype. Within the hallways at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino during the winter talks this week, lots of baseball players spoke excited about the game's top outlook.
"Vlad Jr.", said a senior executive, "is the prospect of epic (freaking) proportions."
"He hit .381 in the Eastern and International leagues," continued the executor and recalled Guerrero's batting averages to the exact percentage points. "Cold weather league. At 19 years old."
"What he did is incredible," added a longtime coach. "So many go than strikeouts? Nobody does."
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Encouraged to predict how Guerrero will go against big league pitching when he arrives to Toronto next spring, a third evaluator suggested that he immediately hit and continue to hit. Names Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto comes up as potential comparable.
There is even praise for Guerrero Jr.'s defense. With good hands, fast feet and a strong arm he possesses many of the moves needed on the third base. He will not be as wild as many infielders, but has otherwise evolved into a respectable defender.
Yes, yes, the Blue Jays do not have to talk high about their best prospects potential. Like it or not, baseball evaluators do it for them.
After four days of talks at Vegas Winter Meetings, here are a few observations about Blue Jays and the market as a whole.
What have you been doing for a long time?
In many ways, Nathan Eovaldi's four-year $ 68 million deal is symbolized for a major trend: Teams would rather pay players what they want to do, rather than what they've done.
As an agent said, "IOU is extinct."
Eovaldi struck only 111 innings in 2018 and missed the previous season, who got his second Tommy John operation. Ten years ago, this profile had not made Eovaldi one of the game's most sought after free agents. But like everyone in the World Series, 28-year-olds swing and miss things and great control. Pair it with his youth and you have great demand despite his story as an often injured player whose results did not match his stuff for most of his big-league career.
PACE OF (OFF-SEASON) PLAY
It is a little disturbing for some observers to see that Ross Atkins describes the meetings as "highly productive" when the team's only concrete acquisition was an 18-year rule 5 choice. Atkins said that Blue Jays has "an incredible sense of opportunity", but how could the meetings have been so productive when their roster is not demonstrably better?
In many ways, it's a matter of goals. The Blue Jays did not arrive in Las Vegas for the purpose of making an appointment. Your goal as far as I can tell was to collect information about trades and free agents while they had time face-to-face with people in the game.
Eventually, this information should lead to movements, but like most teams, Blue Jays guard against pressure to trade in the winter months. The season starts March 28th. There is no prize to have your winter business finished on December 14th. As a reconstruction team, Blue Jay's advice is to wait more patiently than competitors who need a certain finishing touch.
Last season, teams were patient enough to take advantage of late seasons, and some believe that clubs are holding similar offers in new years.
"I think teams realized that it is in their best interest to wait," noted an agent.
It may be so, but it is a matter of doing that MLB should consider a low season as a way to ensure that those who work behind the scenes get a little downtime.
"Everyone needs a break at some point," said Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski journalists in Vegas. "They have to change the rules or something where there is some downtime. Every other sport has anything but ours. It goes further and longer."
This idea would certainly appeal to many overtime executives, and it could appeal to MLBPA as deadlines could increase demand. Proof of the Commissioner's office may not be as easy as the low-cost subsidy team. In addition, there is value in being in the news 12 months a year.
Nevertheless, there are no deadlines in place yet, so we are now in the midst of the low season, not at the end. With that in mind, it's a bit less devastating when Atkins says: "We've certainly achieved what we set to achieve."
There are many legitimate reasons why Blue Jays is patient, so we should not judge them in line with their low season, but of their quality. Meanwhile, they have not succeeded or failed.
As MLB's front offices become more sophisticated, agents try to speak their language. The pitch pamphlets I've seen references advanced statistics including WRC +, defensive running saved and spin rate. Winner over replacement figure also prominently.
Truly calling this stats advanced is not quite correct. They are used everywhere: on television shows, scoreboards and now in places for teams.
LATEST NOTES FROM VEGAS …
• Winter meetings are an exercise in time management for GMs and other senior executives who can not pass through the lobby without being stopped by all kinds of counterparties, journalists and fans.
• The Blue Jays does not seem to have been serious bidders for Charlie Morton or Lance Lynn.
• An observer suggested that when Blue Jays was looking for veteran shortstop options in the wake of Troy Tulowitzki's release, Alcides Escobar could be an opportunity to explore.