The business case against suppressing Eloy Jimenez

Eloy Jimenez (Laura Wolff / Charlotte Knights)

Though the White Sox have not yet confirmed this, according to a report by Bob Nightengale, we won’t be seeing Eloy Jimenez this season.

Here is the White Sox’ official stance on the situation, for now:

First, I’ll start off with an obvious statement. Eloy Jimenez is ready to play in the major leagues and has been for quite some time. If you are of the belief that he has something left to prove in the minor leagues, the rest of this piece may not be for you.

Still with me? Great.

No storyline has dominated the 2018 Chicago White Sox season quite like the handling of Jimenez and Michael Kopech. That makes a lot of sense, given the major league squad is almost 30 games under .500 and has been devoid of premium trade chips. Many fans and pundits have been beating the drum hard for most of the summer to get these guys to the major leagues. Some have expressed real displeasure with Rick Hahn for the first time since this rebuild started. However, a vocal minority have asserted that the 2018 season is lost, and any promotion before 15 days into the 2019 season will serve no purpose other than burning a season of team control.

The front office appeased the masses with a mid-August promotion of Kopech, but Jimenez remained in Charlotte. Kopech “forced the issue,” “checked all the boxes,” or whichever Hahn-Buzzphrase-of-the-Month you want to apply. Jimenez apparently did not meet the same standard, despite gaudy triple-slash stats, aggressive self-assertion, and sheer inspiration of fear in opposing defenses. Jimenez dominated wire-to-wire in 2018, without even so much as the month-long hiccup that temporarily stalled Kopech. With no other explanation, it seems that extending the team control of Jimenez from 2024 to 2025 has been the lone deciding factor in Rick Hahn’s management of the situation.

There is a solid case against that decision-making process. Before getting into the business reasons against the Sox’ treatment of their most prized prospect, we’ll cover a couple of the non-business reasons that suppressing Jimenez is not a good idea.

Non-Business

No. 1: The fans want to see him in Chicago

This reason alone is obviously not enough justification to promote anyone. However, it’s amazing how quickly that fan interest has been dismissed with respect to this situation. Fans are the lifeblood of baseball. This has been a particularly grueling season for the White Sox faithful, but the promise of players like Jimenez has given the fanatics a reason to keep trucking on through. Bringing Eloy to Chicago would have been a nice gesture to fans that have stuck with the team through these lean years.

No. 2: It’s the right thing to do

Jimenez has put in the work and has done all that could be expected of him. He’s earned his promotion and should be rewarded. Instead, he’s stood by while crappy Triple-A players and random waiver claims have received the call.

Now, let’s take a look at the business case.

Business

No. 3: Players need to be challenged to continue their development

Jimenez crushed Double-A, earned a promotion to Triple-A, and performed even better against theoretically more advanced pitchers. The below chart of Jimenez’ 15-game rolling batting averages shows that he never really endured a particularly difficult stretch.

He never hit a rough patch because he never faced a collection of pitchers that were worthy challengers. Hell, we don’t even know whether he has plate discipline because he’s been so effective at putting the ball in play with authority against minor league pitching. Now, he enters the offseason and spring training with a power bat and a 12 percent Triple-A strikeout rate and no sense of what he needs to work on, because he never faced any opponents with the ability to point out his weakness.

No. 4: The 2019 season matters

If Jimenez does have exploitable flaws at the plate, he’ll now need to identify them and struggle through them in 2019 rather than putting the last couple months of a lost White Sox season toward working out the bugs. Many aren’t expecting much from the team next season, but there’s too much upside on the roster and potential for improvement in the offseason to outright punt on it. Getting the best possible version of Jimenez next season has value.

No. 5: The revenue bump

Unlike Kopech, Jimenez can be put in the lineup for each game and could have created a reason to go to the park every day for the rest of the season. The Sox would undoubtedly have sold more tickets late in the year with Jimenez in uniform. If his performance were particularly great, it would have created some added buzz for offseason ticket sales. There’s at least some financial incentive to whet the appetite for 2019.

No. 6: The potential for extension

Rick Hahn hasn’t covered himself in glory during his tenure as general manager, but one thing he’s been very good at has been negotiating extensions with his young talent. Chris Sale, Adam Eaton, Jose Quintana, and Tim Anderson were all locked up beyond the original length of their team control. If the White Sox are really that concerned with holding onto Jimenez through the next seven years, history suggests they can find a price agreeable to the player that can make that happen. An extension for Jimenez will probably cost the White Sox less if they control his rights for 2025, but a more important focus than price should be ensuring that the player is amenable to such a long term deal. Speaking of that…

No. 7: The relationship between Jimenez and the White Sox is important

In order for Jimenez to sign an extension, he has to want to be here. Keeping Jimenez in the minor leagues when he obviously has no business being there will just cause Jimenez to get frustrated with the team. He and his camp will remember that if and when the White Sox come to negotiate a deal.

If you don’t believe that Jimenez is bothered with being in the minor leagues, consider that it’s cost him about $3,000 per day that the White Sox decided not to promote him, not to mention the far more significant hit to his future earnings potential. If you need even more evidence, there’s this:

No. 8: The optics of the situation are terrible

Other players, both within the the White Sox organization and not, are likely aware of what’s going on here. The Sox aren’t alone in their service time manipulation, but this handling of Jimenez signals that they’re content with treating players like inhuman baseball assets to reduce costs. Plus, the length of the delay (arguably a minimum of two-and-a-half baseball months) to keep him down until mid-April is particularly egregious in this situation and has only a few historical cases for precedent. That’s demoralizing to players further down in the organization and sends the message that their progression will be determined more by dates on a calendar than anything in their control.

No. 9: The value of the extra year of team control is not very high

If the White Sox promote Jimenez in April, he’ll be a Super Two player who’s eligible for arbitration for the fourth time in 2025. Let’s say Jimenez develops into a star (which is the only case in which we should really care if he’s locked up for 2025). Here are some recent fourth-year arbitration salaries for Super Two players:

  • Josh Donaldson, $23 million (2018)
  • Bryce Harper, $21.625 million (2018)
  • David Price, $19.75 million (2015)
  • Manny Machado, $16 million (2018)
  • Prince Fielder, $15.5 million (2011)

Taking into account inflation, the price tag for Jimenez’ 2025 season is going to be very high, possibly as much as $25 million if he turns into a legitimate star player. Players that post gaudy batting averages and power numbers tend to have their salaries escalate through arbitration faster than those who generate similar value with walks and glovework, so you can bet that Jimenez will get expensive quickly.

The argument I hear frequently is, “It’s not about cost, it’s about the extra year of control.” This thought process breaks down because Jimenez is not unique in his ability to contribute wins to the 2025 White Sox. If he’s not on the team, the White Sox could find another player or combination of players to replace his estimated value, likely at a higher cost than even Jimenez’ estimated lofty fourth-year arbitration salary.

Therefore, the extra year of control does boil down to cost, specifically the difference between Jimenez’ projected salary and what it would cost to replace his contributions on the open market or through trade. If Jimenez were to walk after 2024 instead, the White Sox would be able to put the large 2025 salary he would have been paid toward another player to help recoup a healthy chunk of the value lost. The ability to at least partially restore Jimenez’ projected 2025 value by using the saved money affects how much weight we should give to the extra year of control.

No. 10: The inherent uncertainty of planning for 2025

We don’t know what sort of team the White Sox will be in 2025. Heck, we don’t know what sort of player Eloy Jimenez will be in 2025. He’ll be 28 by then. Maybe his best years will be behind him at that point. Maybe he’ll be a great player. Maybe unfortunate injuries will have taken their toll on him. Maybe he’ll just be another piece in the next sell-off (which could have value, but would be limited by his salary per the above). Maybe Rick Hahn will be the general manager, and maybe Jerry Reinsdorf will own the team. Maybe the forthcoming collective bargaining agreement will distort the rules such that whatever value the White Sox think they’re getting with the extra year of team control will be materially altered. We don’t know.

What we do know is that Jimenez is a critical piece of what the White Sox are trying to do right now, and what they’re building toward in the next couple of years. They’re effectively punting knowledge, development, and the player-team relationship in favor of a highly uncertain payoff in the distant future.

***

So, to recap:

Reasons Jimenez should have been promoted in 2018:

  1. The fans want to see him in Chicago
  2. Promoting a deserving employee is the right thing to do
  3. He needs to be challenged to continue his development
  4. The 2019 season matters
  5. There would be an increase in revenue
  6. An extension could simply buy the extra team control gained by delaying his promotion
  7. It preserves a positive player-team relationship
  8. Holding him back sends a bad message to players inside and outside the organization
  9. Heavy arbitration salaries limit the value of team control in 2025
  10. Planning for the next few years is more important — and more feasible — than planning for the distant future

Reasons to delay a Jimenez promotion until mid-April, 2019:

  1. The possibility of owning a very expensive 1-year option on a potentially good Eloy Jimenez in 2025

***

White Sox, you’re doing it wrong.

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Greg Nix

This situation sucks. I’m generally a sunny-side up kind of fan, but I’m very annoyed that this has become the dominant storyline of the season. I’ll be straight up angry if Eloy doesn’t get the call tomorrow.

roke1960

A brilliant analysis pnoles!!

roke1960

The fans need to get together and just chant “We want Eloy” throughout the games this weekend.

GrinnellSteve

This needs to happen, starting tonight.

The whole Kinnick Wave thing started because some woman thought it would be a good idea and put it out on social media. It took.

The Sox should be shamed every game loudly and frequently until he comes up.

Nice analysis, btw.

roke1960

Who’s going to the game tonight? Get a “We Want Eloy” chant started. I’m sure it would be easy to do.

gusguyman

Yeah, a demonstration by fans in the seats mean there are fans in the seats. Boycott a game or two (yeah right I know, but how hard is it to organize, what, 120 fans?) and see how quick Eloy comes up

roke1960

Kopech is pitching tonight. There will be at least 125 fans.

gusguyman

Ah good point, his family will probably come again.

Marty34

I think point 3 can’t be understated. How does he know what to work on this offseason if he doesn’t get called up?

Trooper Galactus

The White Sox could go into this offseason selling fans on a 2019 season with a lineup centered around Eloy, Timmay, Yoyo, Abreu, Narvaez, and maybe even a good free agent, and a rotation with Rodon, Kopech, Anderson, Giolito, and Lopez. That’s a team that fans could maybe convince themselves is not built to tank, but actually have an outside shot at competing. Instead, yeah, pump the brakes on any expectations but still lambast people for not buying tickets.

roke1960

They are botching this up in so many ways- and we’re supposed to believe that they will build a championship team? Who’s going to want to play for this management team?

Marty34

In the AL Central with that core and their payroll flexibility no excuse not to compete next year. I bet Theo would find a way with the same set of circumstances.

roke1960

Even with no additions, they will probably go into next year as the 2nd best team in the division. And Cleveland is not that good.

Trooper Galactus

This is probably the best point and largely getting overlooked. The division is STUPID WEAK right now and ripe for the taking. They need to be playing for success in 2019-24. Beyond that, they have a lot of talent to replace and will likely be facing a collection of rebuilt division rivals.

karkovice squad

As a reminder, the division was stupid weak when they decided to rebuild. And that coincided with free agency becoming affordable. They could’ve competed for a Wild Card last year and the division this year. And still been able to blow it up for a decent return if necessary.

Failing to start investing this off-season will also be because of reasons that don’t have much to do with what happens on the field.

roke1960

And yet the same management team that couldn’t win before is still in charge. Doesn’t give me a lot of confidence that this rebuild will be successful.

Trooper Galactus

There’s reasons to be confident (money spent on Robert, better drafting strategy, visible development of young players), but until they spend money on star players and not mid-level cliff divers and some of their own draft picks start to make a significant impact, it’s hard to be 100% on board.

karkovice squad

Robert was a one-off–the first and only time they took advantage of the international amateur rules before they changed.

Drafting strategy is only moderately changed. College skills vs college tools. Still not really signing preps. And that’s leaving aside what looks like largely lackluster execution.

The improvement in their player development is still in question. They haven’t shown much success behind Semien and Anderson.

Trooper Galactus

There’s reasons to be confident, which is not to imply there aren’t plenty of reasons to be skeptical still. They still have a lot to prove. As far as prep players, I think they’ve done well to target guys like Bryce Bush, Sam Abbott, and Luis Curbelo in later rounds when other teams gave up on them.

sgp2204

Drafting prep players early over the last 2 years would’ve been a mistake. They didn’t/don’t want a long rebuild, and most prep players are an easy 4 years away from contributing. Now that they actually have talented players making their way to the upper minors/big leagues, drafting high end prep talent early makes sense. IF they still aren’t looking at prep players over the next couple years, then it’s fair to criticize them. Until then, I have no problem with the approach they have taken thus far. 

Trooper Galactus

Agreed. While I think they did poorly to target Burger and Collins (players with all-bat and severe questions about their ability to play anything but first base) with top picks, their overall approach has been better.

karkovice squad

I don’t buy any of that explanation. Hostetler’s had 3 drafts, not 2. They selected a catcher in 2016, a position which usually doesn’t have a particularly accelerated path to the majors. “Early” really only applies to the start of the first round, anyway, because immediate impact talent dries up quickly.

Trooper Galactus

It was stupid weak in hindsight. The Tigers still had a lot of star players and were coming off an 86-win season. The Royals were a .500 team that still seemed like they could be competitive. The Indians were considered a powerhouse. The Twins were thought to be on the upswing with all their big prospects coming up. That the White Sox had basically put all the chips they were willing to bet into the pot and wound up at 78 wins was not a good sign of things to come, and they had nothing in the minors to either call up or trade for help.

karkovice squad

The Tigers were old, poised for decline, capped out on payroll, and without a farm to replenish. They were set up for a rebuild no later than last off-season.

The Twins prospects on the way made them a competitor not a juggernaut. That was ensured by their penny pinching ways–they certainly didn’t spend like a contender. They snuck into a Wild Card that was equally within reach for the Sox.

Well, you highlight the issue in the end–the Sox weren’t willing to put any more chips in. Which was dumb in foresight and hindsight.

Trooper Galactus

That was why my offseason plan for 2017 was a sell-off. If I wasn’t able to raise the payroll to around $150-160 million, there was no damn point.

vanillablue

The phrase “extra year of team control” needs to be banished and replaced with what it really is, “greater inheritance for the children of billionaires.”

karkovice squad

Also for point 4: minor league ball ends and Eloy stops playing instead of getting another month of reps to check boxes.

This is bullshit. The league’s economics are only interesting to a point. Having the team repeatedly shove the dark side of the economics in my face pushes beyond where they’re interesting. Owners should take note of players reaching the point where they’re willing to force a work stoppage to gain leverage in negotiations.

I’ll side with the players if it comes to that, even if it costs the Sox a postseason run. Owners have themselves to blame and the Sox will have been right in step the whole time.

gusguyman

On this point – I would rather them call him up now, get in the extra month of reps, and then stash him an extra 4 weeks next year than end his year now. OF course, I’d rather they just call him up and leave him up

skytiger

Excellent analysis. However, I would like to add another factor that has resulted from this matter. The ill will perpetrated by Rick Hahn’s lies has also ripped into the business side of the White Sox organization. If he had just been honest and given the real reason for keeping Eloy down on the farm, I could have lived with that. Consequently, if Eloy is not promoted I am not renewing my season ticket package, which I have owned for over 20 years. Several friends have said they plan to do the same.

sgp2204

So you and your friends plan on selling your season tickets right when the Sox might actually be worth watching? Sounds like a solid decision. 

Gutteridge70

Disagree with making Hahn and Reinsdorf the bad guys in this situation. They are doing nothing that most of the owners would and are practicing. None of your arguments outweigh the advantage to delaying Eloy’s appearing on the roster until next year. After the Boston is out of town and other than the 3 games with the Cubs , the Sox will probably average 7,500 actual butts in the seats attendance for all the remaining home games. Eloy’s debut might draw 10,000 additional fans total for the remaining games. Eloy would draw attention for one game and then everybody attention would be on the Bears, the little bruins playoff chances, the Blackhawks , Bulls ,college football etc. Think Kopec presence going to bump up the attendance for his remaining games? Well did Chris Sale’s starts result in additional 10,000 fans per game when he played? Since I attended 30 to 40 Sox games a year and have both a full and partial season ticket holder for the past 25 years and made it a point to try and see his games I can tell you it did not. Would bringing up Eloy compel 10,000 fans to immediately this year buy a season ticket package? Don’t think so. If I am wrong here all those who clamored for Kopec appearance and got it, go to his two or three games he is pitching before the end of the year at minor league prices and jam the park to the gills(35,000 plus) and show your gratitude to Jerry for bringing him up making him lust for those tens of thousands fans who would have jammed the park if Elloy had been brought up.
The Sox are practically giving their tickets away for the Boston series and Gilito one of most promising players of the rebuild threw a great game but barely 18.0000 were fans present and many of them wearing red (I was there).
If Eloy and agents want a grievance let it be with the MLB players association who(outside of the NBA )is the most powerful sports union in organized sports that consciously or unconsciously screwed the minor league players like Eloy, Vad Guerro Jr. our beloved Mr. Tatis and others.
Look the season as awful as it has been is over. The Sox made noticeable progress especially since July 1. Let just quite our whining look at the realities of the situation ( Reinsdorf does not want to screw or alienate the fan base and really wants another World championship before he dies) and let Hahn play his hand.

Trooper Galactus

It’s shitty, but everybody else is doing it which somehow makes it less shitty. Gotcha.

tommytwonines

Someone cliff note this for me. 

karkovice squad

Rest of the league does it. Also: attendance and union shaming.

tommytwonines

Thank you. 

karkovice squad

The Sox made noticeable progress especially since July 1.

How much more progress would they have made with Eloy and Kopech up sooner?

QED.

tommytwonines

“No final decision has been made on the entire list of Chicago White Sox call-ups for September,” the team said. “White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn plans to meet with media pregame Monday to discuss the final list after all affected players have been informed of the Club’s plans.”

Why? You’re not bringing him up. You got scooped so shut your traps or own up now. 

Hope I’m wrong.   

Nightengale Enemy #1 among Chicago GMs this week. 

ParisSox

Perfect Patrick.  Absolutely perfect. 

If I was in Chicago I’d go to the games this weekend just to chant “We want Eloy”.  Please make this happen people!!!

Josh Nelson

I wore my Eloy Jimenez Charlotte Knights shirsey

MasGarcias

This is It right? This is where everyone who tolerated a rebuild revolts?? How much money have they saved the last few years???

gogosox21

This is well written and I think the argument that 2025 has limited value if Eloy is a star is valid for sure, but I still can’t help but feel like some of the other arguments floating around about this situation don’t exactly hold up when you look at this from a business perspective. 

 

Say Eloy is a 4 to 5 win player making 22 million in 2025, the salary difference vs. replacing that production on the open market is probably worth about $15 to $20 million by then. I just don’t see how arguments like 2 months of extra development or the optics of the situation really come close to making up that value. Even though planning for 2025 is crazy the fact is that there is a better chance of 2025 being a contending season than 2019. Sure we want to believe next year could come together but it is a long shot at best, and Eloy playing 148 games instead of 160 probably doesn’t change that.

 

Oh well, I feel like I could write a lot more and I know most will disagree but I think a lot of people are letting the impatient fan in them create arguments that sound important but don’t actually have a lot of real value.

karkovice squad

If they hadn’t/haven’t pissed him off they’d be able to make up the difference in team control through an extension. An extension would probably both be less expensive and buy an additional year over service time manipulation.

The only business reasons to play hardball are if you know the agents absolutely wouldn’t entertain that or your goal is to set up a CBA fight.