White Sox continue to delay promotion of top prospect as he will now have to wait until 2019 because of needed defensive improvement.
Eloy Jimenez, the White Sox top prospect, has 1,563 at-bats in the minor leagues. He has played in the minors since 2014 and just finished off an impressive 2018 campaign in Triple-A. Despite owning a .355/.399/.597 slash line with the Charlotte Knights, Jimenez won’t join the Sox in the final month of the season.
Instead, Jimenez will have to wait until 2019 to possibly make his major league debut. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn announced on Monday that Jimenez would not get a much-deserved September call-up. The reasoning for Jimenez having to wait until next year is because of his defense according to Hahn.
"“We’re not looking to develop a 21-year-old DH. Offensively, he’s in a very good spot, but we view him much higher. Just as we didn’t view Michael [Kopech] as a bullpen guy, we viewed him as a potential front-end starter, we view Eloy as a potentially elite all-around player, and although offensively he might be in a real good spot, he’s had a very good year offensively, we’re looking to develop him as a well-rounded, impact player.” Rick Hahn"
Jimenez’s stellar offensive season with Double-A Birmingham and Charlotte didn’t earn him a promotion. What kept him back is defense apparently. That would be somewhat believable if it weren’t for service time manipulation of the current collective bargaining agreement. Similar to what has happened with Kris Bryant, Maikel Franco, and Ronald Acuna Jr., the Sox are looking to gain an extra year of control for Jimenez.
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The Sox can’t outright state they’re not promoting Jimenez because of service time, but many people are aware that this is what the team is explicitly doing. Although Jimenez wrote a solid article for The Player’s Tribune stating he was ready, and despite his agents threatening to file a grievance on his behalf, Jimenez has to continue waiting for his promotion to MLB.
This decision is the worst choice the Sox could have made this season. Jimenez belongs in the Majors right now. Will he ever develop into a gold-glove caliber defender? No, and the Sox know this. The excuse Hahn gave about Jimenez needing to improve his defense was poor. Jimenez did everything a prospect should do to earn a major league promotion.
Jimenez could very well be an impact player for the Sox immediately once he’s promoted, but the fans who don’t care about service time will have to wait to see him. There’s no reason the Sox should be heavily concerned about service time in regards to Jimenez. If they would have promoted him this year, he would be eligible for free agency after the 2024 season. With the delay in his promotion, if he doesn’t make his MLB debut until after mid-April, he will be eligible for free agency after the 2025 season.
Gaining an extra year of service time benefits the owner, but what about the player? Shouldn’t Jimenez get the opportunity to work on his defense at the major league level sooner rather than later? Jimenez has shown he’s no match for Triple-A pitching and should have finished his 2018 season getting adjusted to major league pitching. He should have also been given ample time to get acclimated defensively in left field for the Sox.
The Sox followed the mold set by other teams in manipulating service time for a top prospect. There needs to be a change to how service time is either calculated or how many years of control a team has over a prospect when the current CBA expires in December of 2021. Many talented players such as Jimenez are getting screwed out of an opportunity to make an impact in MLB when they’re clearly ready.