Have you spent an upsettingly large amount of time figuring out the major league service-time rules? Well forget ‘em.
According to multiple reports, Eloy Jimenez’s major league debut might be delayed no longer after the No. 3 prospect in the game agreed to a new contract with the White Sox that could keep him on the South Side for the next eight seasons. The contract is reportedly a six-year deal with a pair of team options and is worth $43 million. If the White Sox were to pick up both options, it could be worth as much as $77 million. It's possible the deal could be the largest in franchise history.
Top outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez and the Chicago White Sox are finalizing a long-term deal, league sources tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 20, 2019
BREAKING NEWS: The White Sox are close to an agreement with Eloy Jimenez for an 8-year extension that would pay him between 65-70 US$ Million. With Incentives the contract could get to the 75-80 million Range. Source says deal is pending only a Physical.@z101digital @ZDeportes— Héctor Gómez (@hgomez27) March 20, 2019
Eloy Jimenez’s deal with the Chicago White Sox will be for six years and $43 million, as @Ken_Rosenthal said. It will include a pair of club options and can max out around $77 million, sources tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 20, 2019
Eloy deal with #WhiteSox will be six years, $43M with two club options, source tells The Athletic.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 20, 2019
Eloy Jimenez close to chisox deal. 6 years plus 2 team options. If it goes 8, would pay about 75M. @DAlvarez_16 1st— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 20, 2019
The deal would be the biggest for a player who has yet to make his major league debut. Scott Kingery signed a $24 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies last year.
The focal point of the discussion around Jimenez has involved service time and the accusation that the White Sox were “manipulating” the early stages of his career in order to gain an additional year of control on the back end of his rookie contract. Whether or not that practice is an unfair one — and there’s a perfectly valid point to be made that it is — it will be a non-issue if the reported contract is finalized. The White Sox, who optioned Jimenez to Triple-A Charlotte earlier this month, no longer have to worry about stretching their control of Jimenez from six to seven years by delaying his big league debut; he figures to be in a White Sox uniform on Opening Day and for the eight full seasons that follow.
For the White Sox, the positives are obvious. Rick Hahn is trying to build a perennial contender, and what better way to improve the chances of reaching that goal than to assure the centerpiece of the project is under control for as long as possible? The White Sox don’t have to worry about Jimenez bolting for free agency after the 2025 season, perhaps adding a year to their hoped-for contention window. It could also be easier to add expensive outside pieces with Jimenez eating up an affordable amount every season when it comes to the luxury tax.
However, there are obvious risks, too. Jimenez has yet to play in a Major League Baseball game. While the White Sox think the world of him and that he can become one of the game’s elite talents, there’s no guarantee that’s how things will turn out. And so this is a lot of money and a lot of time invested in a player whose big league success rate is still a mystery.
Jimenez, meanwhile, gets a big raise right away. He won’t be making the league minimum over the next three seasons. But it’s a gamble on his part, too, as there’s no telling how much he might have made through the arbitration process and the first year of a free-agent deal in 2026. This contract could end up being a mighty team-friendly one for the White Sox if Jimenez lives up to the lofty expectations the team has for him and he has for himself.
The contract could wind up surpassing the richest deal the franchise has ever handed out: the $68 million free-agent contract given to Jose Abreu ahead of the 2014 season. It’s unlikely this will make fans forget the White Sox failed pursuit of Manny Machado this winter or put an end to what Hahn has called a “false narrative” that the team won’t spend on top talent. Fans likely won’t jump off that complaint until the White Sox successfully lure a top-of-the-line free agent on a huge-money deal.
But there’s no doubt that this sets the White Sox up in a good spot moving forward in their rebuilding project, setting up a potentially lengthy contention window centered around Jimenez’s contract.