White Sox: The business of calling up prospects

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 05: Chicago White Sox cap and glove in the dug out before a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 5, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 05: Chicago White Sox cap and glove in the dug out before a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 5, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

The ongoing debate of when to call up top prospects is all business for many teams, including the White Sox.

White Sox fans across twitterland have been debating when is the right time to bring up top prospect Eloy Jimenez. As the arguments go on, there is one thing for certain. Both sides are right.

Huh? How is that possible? Well, let’s dig into this a little deeper. And let’s remember that the White Sox aren’t the only team fueling these debates. The Toronto Blue Jays with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are also hearing it from their fans. The Cubs with Kris Bryant in 2014 were being bombarded with calls to bring him up.

The main problem creating this confusion, frustration and intense debate is the current CBA. The way the CBA was written, and approved by the players union it must be pointed out, makes these debates rage on. Let’s take a look at both sides:

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First, the question has to be answered. Are players like Jimenez and Guerrero Jr. ready to be called up to the major league club right now? That answer is extremely subjective. While it may seem blatantly obvious to fans, clubs have other things they want to see other than batting averages and power numbers. That being said, the numbers appear to show that Jimenez and Guerrero Jr. are ready to move up to the next level. So, why haven’t they been promoted yet?

Well, the White Sox and Blue Jays, first of all, aren’t in a pennant race. If they were, those players would probably have already been up. Secondly, the teams may want to see more at-bats and better defense before they commit to the call-up. As Rick Hahn has continuously has mentioned, these players have boxes to check. These are the baseball-related reasons to not bring them up. However, there are major business reasons these players are not being brought up that play a bigger part of the equation.

First is the previously mentioned CBA. The CBA has wording detailing the amount of major league time a player has before he is eligible for free agency. Without going into the exacts on that, it means a player must have 172 days at the major league level to account for one full year of service. This rule is the reason that many players are not brought up at the end of the year or even out of spring training. Usually about mid-April is when these players are brought up. Why? Well, at that point they can play the rest of the year and still not accumulate 172 days of service time. So at the end of that year, they still have not gotten a full year of eligibility.

Teams have control over a players contract for six full years before they can be granted free agency. So, by waiting until mid-April to call a player up, they basically gain an entire year of control over them while still having them on the major league roster for that year. In Jimenez’s case, it means this. If the Sox bring him up now, or even straight out of next spring training, he will be eligible for free agency after the 2024 season. By waiting until mid-April next year, even though he would play all but two weeks of next season, he would not be eligible for free agency until after the 2025 season.

So, business-wise, it’s financially beneficial for a team to hold off on calling up a prospect until the next year. Baseball-wise, it doesn’t make sense. However, it’s the way the CBA is written. So, who’s right. Both sides, really. Fans want to see their future pieces as soon as their ready. teams want control over those players as long as possible.

One other note on bringing up Jimenez. He will, more than likely, make the team better. Thus it would make sense the team could play better and win more games. This hurts their draft position in next years amateur draft. The Sox have been pretty much locked into the third overall pick most of the year. With their current good play, and by adding Jimenez to the mix, they could conceivably play well enough to fall all the way to the ninth pick in next years draft.

Not that the draft is an exact science, nor are you guaranteed a top player, but it could cost you drafting a future superstar. Just for a few wins at the end of a lost season, you could lose out on the best player available. It’s just more to think about.

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I’m not saying this is what these teams only think about. However, it is part of the equation. While most are screaming to bring Jimenez up now, there is a business reason that makes sense not to. Not saying it’s right, but, in 2025, will you really care that they held him down in the minors an extra month or two?