Hide your hearts, White Sox fans.
Eloy's finally comin' to the South Side, it would appear, with every national baseball writer under the Twitterverse's sun reporting that the White Sox are on the brink of a long-term deal with the No. 3 prospect in baseball, a contract that would keep Jimenez as part of what Rick Hahn is hoping is a perennial contender for the better part of the next decade.
The deal, which has not yet been made official by the team, is hard to see as anything but a smashing success for the White Sox. Are there risks with guaranteeing a reported $43 million to a player who's never swung a bat in a major league game? Sure. But the positives far outweigh the potential negatives.
In the immediate, it completely wipes away the service-time element that has been dominating the conversation over Jimenez's approaching major league debut. Though they never publicly stated this was their intent, the White Sox, playing well within baseball's rules, were expected to delay Jimenez's big league arrival a few weeks into the 2019 regular season, earning an extra year of team control by doing so and turning the typical six-year rookie contract into seven years of club control. Any team would be foolish not to take advantage of those rules, but the accusation of "manipulation" now never has to be made and the argument doesn't even need to take place. The entire topic gets thrown out the window and this contract locks in six surefire years of control with team options for another two. If the contract lasts all eight years, it will assure Jimenez stays in a White Sox uniform one year longer than he would have without it.
With that service-time issue no longer an issue, Jimenez's debut doesn't need to be delayed. He can appear on the White Sox roster for Opening Day next week in Kansas City. That gives him a full season in the majors in 2019, with the opportunity to do the usual growing and developing and learning that comes along with a first full season in the bigs. Rick Renteria will be able to pencil Jimenez into his everyday lineup starting on Day 1. It might not necessarily translate to any more wins for the White Sox this season, considering he was only expected to be in the minor leagues for a few weeks, but it makes the team better from the jump.
Arguably the team's best player will be in the lineup for the season opener next Thursday and for the home opener April 4, not sentenced to a fortnight or two of avoiding injury down in Charlotte. It provides a tangible example of progress in a rebuilding effort that's been plagued by negative headlines of late, be it the incensed reaction from the fan base following the front office's missing out on Manny Machado or another highly rated pitching prospect having Tommy John surgery and getting put on the shelf for a year. Instead, the No. 74 jerseys can start flying off the shelves, and the top reason to pay attention to this team in 2019 begins a month earlier than it would have. All good things.
Obviously, Jimenez benefits in the short term, too, getting a big raise right away. That's life-changing money for just about anyone, and that includes a 22-year-old minor leaguer from the Dominican Republic. Though he's delaying his first stab at free agency by a year, he gets stability in return, as well as a pretty nice demonstration of the faith the White Sox have in him to become one of the game's elite players.
But this deal isn't about the White Sox getting Jimenez in the lineup every day over the next six months, it's about getting him in the lineup every day for the next eight years. The assurance that he'll be a part of the core for the next eight years extends the planned contention window that far into the future. It provides an anchor in the lineup that figures to feature more players like Jimenez over the coming years: the Luis Roberts, Micker Adolfos, Nick Madrigals and Zack Collinses.
Of course, it's unlikely the White Sox will get to perennial-contender status on prospects alone, and the outside additions they tried to make this offseason will have to come at some point. This deal helps with that, too. Jimenez could've conceivably made more money in the arbitration process. The White Sox could use the savings on free agents, and luring them figures to get easier once they see what Jimenez can do.
See? A wealth of positives. The pessimists will track down the negatives, and they won't make incorrect points. Jimenez is completely unproven as a major leaguer, without a single big league plate appearance to his name. Prospects, even the highly rated ones, don't always hit, and to push the chips in on six to eight years of a player who's never seen major league pitching is by definition risky. There's a reason there were only two deals like this prior to this one.
But this deal reflects just how highly the White Sox think of their organization's top-rated prospect. Hahn and Renteria both said this offseason that they believe Jimenez can be on the same level as the big-name free agents the team pursued this offseason. Jimenez has the same kinds of expectations for himself.
Those expectations have now been teamed with commitment. It looks like a winner for the White Sox, but the eventual review of the deal will be made by Jimenez and how much he can do to help this rebuilding team turn into a World Series winner.
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