There’s a new trend starting to show up in the major leagues which could have Toronto Blue Jays fans wondering if their club might soon follow suit.
Rather than pushing back the debut of a top prospect or waiting until he approaches arbitration a few years down the road, a few clubs have opted to expedite the process and lock up their young stars to long-terms deals.
Take the Chicago White Sox, for example. The club signed top prospect Eloy Jimenez to a six-year deal worth $43 million a week before he’d even seen his first pitch in the MLB. By agreeing on the deal now, the White Sox ensure team control for up to eight years (the deal includes team options in 2025 and 2026) and gives both club and player plenty of security.
The Atlanta Braves took a similar approach on Tuesday when they locked up Ronald Acuna Jr. to an eight-year, $100 million contract. Acuna is more of a known entity as he has one year of MLB experience under his belt. And what a year it was. His stellar play — .293 batting average, .366 on-base percentage, a team-high 26 home runs and 64 RBIs — earned him NL rookie of the year honours. Still, locking him up earlier than usual represented a different kind of thinking for the club.
As we await the arrival of third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., it’s worth asking if the Blue Jays might take a similar approach with their top prospect.
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins was asked about the trend during an appearance on The Starting Lineup Wednesday morning, and broke down the pros and cons of locking up a young player ahead of schedule.