Vlad the Impaler giving it one more stab
Vladimir Guerrero is looking for work again. For the second year in a row, the 38-year-old, nine-time All-Star is hoping to catch on somewhere via a minor league deal. FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal noted Guerrero’s availability and tweeted a link to a short video of him training and discussing his plight in Spanish with English subtitles (“I’ve been working out here at this field every afternoon…”). He says he’s working out every day, and looks fairly fit for a man his age running the bases, throwing and hitting, but even with his signature swing, it’s all fairly mundane stuff if you’ve ever seen the insanity of the Yoenis Cespedes Showcase, which featured a Star Wars-like opening text crawl, a 45-inch vertical jump, He-Man-caliber weightlifting, and a pig roast as well as extended baseball montages. Guerrero might want to consider switching agencies if he wants to create similar buzz.
Of course, that’s not really an option. Guerrero isn’t going to get a $36 million deal after disappearing from the major league scene last year, and more than likely, he isn’t going to add the 51 homers he needs to reach 500, a goal he expresses in the video but concedes will require two or three seasons. He last played in the majors with the Orioles in 2011, batting a fairly limp .290/.317/.416 with 13 homers in 590 plate appearances as a full-time designated hitter. He was much more productive in 2010, when he hit .300/.345/.496 with 29 homers for the Rangers, but that feels like a long time ago — we’re talking about a time when Cliff Lee was his teammate and Jurickson Profar was still a minor.
Unable to find a major league deal last winter, Guerrero signed with the Blue Jays in early May, and after spending a couple of weeks in their extended spring training camp, he played in 12 games for their High-A Dunedin and Triple-A Las Vegas affiliates. He hit a combined .358/.364/.679 in 55 PA at those two stops, with four homers in four games at the lower level but none at the more hitter-friendly higher one; he didn’t draw a single walk, but struck out two times. The Blue Jays couldn’t find room, at least not on a timeframe that was suitable to him, so he opted out of his contract in mid-June. He didn’t catch on anywhere else, and while he played winter ball for the Licey Tigers of the Dominican Winter League, his 6-for-32 showing, without an extra-base hit but with two errors afield, probably didn’t wow any bird dog scouts.
The Yankees have already said they’re not interested in Guerrero’s services; for whatever their problems, a lack of DH options on their graying roster isn’t one of them. There are a few teams around whose DH solutions appear incomplete, howerver. The Orioles (Wilson Betemit) and Rays (Luke Scott) both have options against right-handed pitching, but neither has a suitable complement to counter southpaws, so the righty-swinging Guerrero could be a potential fit if he’s willing to accept such a role, and if one those teams was willing to expend a roster spot on such a player. More likely, Guerrero will have to accept a situation simlar to last year where he’d provide organizational depth and hope that he catches a lucky break via somebody else’s misfortune.
A career .318/.379/.553 hitter with 2,590 hits, 449 home runs and an MVP award, Guerrero figures to have a pretty good shot at a plaque in Cooperstown when he becomes eligible, which could be as early as 2017 if he doesn’t make another major league appearance. Even so, the JAWS system is a bit more skeptical that he belongs than I would have suspected. He ranks 22nd among rightfielders just below Hall of Famer Dave Winfield and non-Hall of Famer Bobby Bonds, with 55.2 career WAR, 39.2 peak WAR and 47.2 JAWS at a position where the average Hall of Famer is at 69.5/41.3/55.4. Despite his cannon-like arm, he’s hurt by a lack of defensive value (−10.8 dWAR for his career) and an overall lack of production from his mid-30s onward, with just 1.9 WAR to show for his 2009-2011 (age 34-36) seasons.