By Andrew Hendriks
Canadian Baseball Network
The Blue Jays opened day one of international free-agent eligibility on Thursday by inking not only one of the top names in this years class, but a familiar one to those who follow baseball north of the border.
Ranked No. 1 by Baseball America ahead of the July 2nd kick off, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. signed a $3.9 million US pact with Toronto that, similar to his father, sets the now 16 year old Dominican outfielder down a path destined for big league ball in Canada.
Prior to earning nine All Star nods, a handful of Silver Slugger Awards and American League MVP honors for the 2004 season, the elder Guerrero was signed by the Montreal Expos as an amateur free agent in 1993. Three years later, “Bad Vlad” broke in with the Expos and before long, the product of Peravia, D.R. had quickly endeared himself to ball fans across the North America utilizing one of the National Leagues most potent offensive approaches along with a cannon for an arm that sent shivers down the spines of his opposition for the better part of 16 years in the Majors.
Although Jr. is said to have not inherited his fathers greatest defensive asset, he has mimicked his swing and, in addition to excellent hand eye coordination like his pops, the freshly minted Blue Jays prospect has demonstrated impressive power for his age.
At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Guerrero is still maturing physically and his current build leaves both scouts and prospectors alike intrigued as to how the teenager will fill out in the coming years.
Of course, the sighing of Vladdy Jr. shouldn’t come as much of a surprise for those who follow the team closely.
As early as last winter, photos and video footage of the top tier IFA began surfacing on the internet. Most of which featured the raw power hitting prospect draped in Blue Jay regalia, creating a buzz that gave additional life to the reported rumors regarding Toronto’s verbal agreement with up and coming slugger.
Although the addition of Guerrero Jr. serves as a feather in the cap of Jays general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, the move failed to come without initial sacrifice as the club opted to move prospects, Tim Locastro and Chase De Jong to the Dodgers in order to offset the overages occurred by acquiring the coveted free agent.
In short, Major League Baseball grants its clubs individual amounts (based off previous season standings) in which they can use for the signing of IFA’s.
In Toronto’s case, the Jays were allotted $2,324,100 for 2015. A figure that, with the signing of Guerrero Jr. at $3.9 million, the club blew past and, having done so, were faced with paying further penalties (similar to a luxury tax) should a corresponding move not have been made in order to supplement their slot allowance.
The De Jong/Locastro move helped increase Toronto’s spending limit as the pair was dealt for a trio of spending slots that the Jays some $1,071,300 worth of flexibility, thus lowering the financial hit while ensuring that the club will not be hindered during 2017’s IFA process.
As for the Montreal-born Guerrero, the risk of losing two impressive prospects (one of which was ranked as high as 24th on the teams listing of up and coming talent) may be worth the reward... 10 fold.
Should Jr. be even a fraction of the ballplayer his father -- who ended his pro career as a member of Toronto’s triple-A affiliate Las Vegas 51’s in 2012 -- was, the Blue Jays will have made one of the strongest international moves in franchise history.
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