Eloy Jimenez is still not a major leaguer, and that has a couple people rather upset.
Jimenez’s agents sounded off in a piece written by FanCred’s Jon Heyman, directing ire at the White Sox for not yet promoting their top-ranked prospect to the major league roster, insisting the only reason Jimenez isn’t currently playing on the South Side is because the team is angling for an extra year of control.
“How can you say with a straight face this guy needs to work on anything?” said Paul Kinzer, the president of the agency that represents Jimenez, to Heyman. “What’s he need to work on?”
All season long, the discussion around Jimenez has focused on one question: When will he join the big league squad? He was stellar last season after coming over with Dylan Cease in the Crosstown swap that sent Jose Quintana to the Cubs, and in 2018, Jimenez has only generated more excitement over what kind of slugger he’ll be once he puts on a White Sox uniform for good.
He slashed .317/.368/.556 with 10 homers and 42 RBIs in 56 games at Double-A Birmingham, earning a promotion to Triple-A Charlotte, where he’s slashing .365/.406/.604 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs in 51 games. Jimenez has been especially hot of late, slashing .400/.426/.508 in his last 16 games.
Of course, as general manager Rick Hahn has often said this season, there’s plenty to do with a player’s development that doesn’t show up in the box score, and no one knows which developmental milestones the White Sox front office is waiting to see from Jimenez besides the White Sox front office.
Jimenez’s agents, however, aren’t buying the logic that there's more for Jimenez to show.
“I don’t see what boxes he needs to check to be called up,” Jimenez’s agent Nelson Montes De Oca told Heyman, “except for service time.”
Service time has been a popular talking point in recent months as the vocal White Sox fans on social media seemed to flip a switch, going from arguing that Jimenez belongs in the big leagues now to arguing that waiting until the early weeks of next season makes the most sense, starting the clock a year later and adding a year of team control to the end of Jimenez’s contract. For a White Sox team that’s planning on long-term success — and one that might've seen its timetable altered, however slightly, by a slew of minor league injuries this season — that isn’t a bad argument.
But agents are obviously not proponents of that strategy, one that delays the next big contract.
The game’s most well-known agent, Scott Boras, had plenty of negative things to say about the Cubs when they seemed to use the same strategy in dealing with Kris Bryant back in 2015. Bryant tore it up in the minors a year earlier but wasn’t promoted. A couple weeks into the 2015 campaign — once the extra year was attainable — he was on the major league roster and ended up the National League Rookie of the Year.
For the teams, they're playing within the rules of the system. Agents don’t like those rules. Bryant filed a grievance over that delay, and Jimenez’s agents told Heyman they won’t rule out Jimenez filing one, when the time comes.
The White Sox have insisted the issue of service time isn’t what they’re thinking about, with Hahn talking about Jimenez and other top prospects — such as the recently promoted Michael Kopech — in strictly baseball terms. The team’s decision to promote Kopech last week could be perceived as a validation of that talk. After all, wouldn’t a team with a win-loss record like the White Sox, a team angling for years of sustained contention at the end of this rebuilding effort, want an extra year of control with Kopech, too? But they opted to move him to the majors when they felt he was ready.
In his dealings with the media since the offseason, Jimenez has talked about his readiness though repeatedly said that he understood the decision was not his and that he’d do whatever the White Sox wanted. Then came his piece in the Players’ Tribune titled “I’m Ready,” in which he wrote: “Am I ready for the big leagues? I’m beyond ready. I’ve been waiting to play pro ball in Chicago since I was 11 years old.”
Strong words from both player and agents. The decision, though, is the White Sox to make, and as Hahn has said about every decision he’s made since this rebuild got started, it will be made with the best long-term interest of the team in mind.