Jon Heyman: Eloy Jimenez's camp unhappy he's unlikely to play for White Sox this year

Top prospect Eloy Jimenez’s agents Nelson Montes De Oca and Paul Kinzer questioned why he hasn’t been promoted to the major leagues in interviews with Fancred this week, suggesting the White Sox are prioritizing service time considerations over readiness in his case.

Jimenez is batting .370 after 50 games at Triple-A Charlotte (through Aug. 29) as he endeavors to force the issue, and one rival team, Durham, recently employed four outfielders to try to curtail him. He saw his minor-league teammate Michael Kopech — the White Sox’s top pitching prospect — recently called up and impressing early on the South Side, and Jimenez declared “I’m ready,” in a recent posting on the Players Tribune website.

Now his two agents are saying it, too, only a little more loudly.

“How can you say with a straight face this guy needs to work on anything?” wondered Kinzer, the president of Rep1 baseball agency. “What’s he need to work on?”

The buzz around Jimenez has grown since White Sox minor league executive Chris Getz, the former major leaguer, said on the radio Aug. 5 that Jimenez is “really close” to the majors. But while Jimenez’s play has remained at an extraordinarily high level — he’s actually gotten a bit hotter; he’s 18 for 29 since Kopech’s ascension, according to Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times — indications lately have been that the ChiSox may wait awhile.

Montes De Oca, referencing a late-July comment from ChiSox GM Rick Hahn about how both top prospects have a “checklist” they need to fulfill, said, “I don’t see what boxes he needs to check to be called up … except for service time.”

Hahn told Fancred via text, “I’ve really got nothing to add to what I have already said on this numerous times. I’ll discuss it again when we make an announcement as to our plan for the remainder of the season.”

The White Sox are in a rebuild but haven’t been the slave to the service clock some teams appear to be, having recalled Kopech at age 22, and Yoan Moncada last year, also at 22. Management officials have likened Jimenez’s situation to that of Cubs star Kris Bryant and Braves rising star Ronald Acuna Jr., two superstar-level talents whose free agent clock was delayed by a year after being promoted long enough into a season to push it back by a year, by one day in Bryant’s case. In neither case has a team ever admitted the service clock is the sole or even primary consideration.

Bryant and Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco are two players who have filed grievances over perceived promotion delays. They are pending against their current teams.

Alluding to the players already protesting, Kinzer said, “Eventually, you’ll probably have to add us to the list.”

Not that he seems to be overly optimistic about their prospective case. There’s nothing specifically in the CBA about teams delaying ready players to set their clock back by a year, so the union/players have to prove the team didn’t act in good faith. “Bryant’s got a pretty good case … but they’ve been waiting on it two years,” Kinzer opined.

The ChiSox’s recent silence on the matter is being seen as reason to believe Jimenez will have to wait into next season for his call up.

“There’s no reason for optimism,” Kinzer said.

Their belief is actually that Jimenez is seen as too good to be promoted, leading to a desire to keep him an extra year. (That doesn’t explain why Kopech got the call, though some might speculate that pitchers, less of a sure thing, are different.)

“Especially with elite players like Eloy and Vlad Jr. (the Jays’ top prospect who’s hitting a ton at Triple-A), that’s the nature of the business,’” Kinzer said. “It’s not about the money. It’s the extra year of control.”

Kinzer lamented the whole state of the situation for players the last couple years.

“There’s more money in baseball than ever, and players are getting a smaller and smaller piece,” the agent said. “They’re getting guys at one end – OK, I see some rationale when players are older – but they’re getting guys on the other end, too. The only option is to play it out, and hopefully get a (Giancarlo) Stanton/(Mike) Trout type deal … if you’re a budding superstar.”

It’s mostly out of the agents’ control, that seems true. Though they are doing what they can.

Montes De Oca said Jimenez himself wrote the Players Tribune piece, which was a very upbeat expression of interest in baseball, and particularly playing baseball in Chicago.

Jimenez’s main agent, Montes de Oca, suggested the White Sox haven’t explained what he needs to work on to earn a call up. That follows on Hahn's comments in late July that both players were aware what they needed to work on.

Jimenez is a superb hitter who’s seen as a mostly solid corner outfielder; he’s no speedster, but he can play a corner by current standards in the majors. Montes De Oca also said he’s lost 20 pounds since hiring a personal trainer at the beginning of the season. He also pointed out he’s a good citizen who speaks English.

It isn’t hitting, as Jimenez has, if anything, upped his performance at the plate since going to Triple A.

The Jimenez camp suggests they don’t think it matters, that it’s all about the clock.

“(Jimenez) doesn’t agree with the decision but he understands it,” Montes De Oca said.

In the meantime. He’s just going to keep playing, and keep swinging.

“What are we going to do — hold him out next year? There’s no recourse,” Kinzer said. 

No, there’s nothing to be done, except file a grievance, which hasn’t been ruled out.

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Jon Heyman is Fancred's baseball insider. He publishes his weekly Inside Baseball column each Thursday on the App and You can download the App here and interact with Jon by following him right here.