Geriatric Hardball: Could Vladimir Guerrero Be a Good Fit in Arizona?
If there was one defining characteristic of the early part of the season for the Arizona Diamondbacks (aside from their penchant for scoring runs in the first inning of games), it would have to be their injury woes. They started the season with Stephen Drew on the DL (although he is making progress and will be playing in several simulated games this week), and then saw both Chris Young and Daniel Hudson go down with injuries as well. Justin Upton has also missed time, although he was able to avoid the DL and has seemed to look healthier in recent games.
With all of those things taking place, the team has been searching far and wide for some insurance against future injuries, and one route that they are looking at taking almost seems like a foolish one at first blush. Vladimir Guerrero, who is 37 years old and last played with the Baltimore Orioles in 2011, has been aggressively looking for work, and his contract demands are pretty steep. He is looking for a $5 million deal, according to some sources, and his lack of employment is a strong indicator that teams feel as though he is overvaluing himself.
Nonetheless, the Diamondbacks put Guerrero through a workout this week, and according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, things looked pretty good. The Cleveland Indians had him take fly balls last week, and their scouts seemed impressed by his performance in that area. They didn’t sign him, which probably speaks louder than those scouting reports, but the likelihood is that Arizona wouldn’t have him play the field anyway, as he avoided all glove-related responsibilities last year with Baltimore.
The question now, of course, is whether the team should actually sign him to a contract. He still could potentially be effective, as he was in 2010 when he slugged 29 HR and drove in 115 RBI for the Texas Rangers. He came back to Earth significantly in 2011, hitting only 13 HR and driving in 63 runs despite getting nearly 600 at-bats for the Orioles. His regression would likely be a trend moreso than a one year thing, so Arizona would have to be realistic about the role he could fill for the team.
If the Diamondbacks are looking at him to be more of a pinch-hitter or a designated hitter for their games in the American League, then it would be a smart move to bring him aboard. He probably isn’t going to do much damage to your hopes of winning when he is swinging the bat, but if they are looking at bringing him aboard as an outfielder, then they would be better served putting their eggs into a different and younger basket.
Truth of the matter is that Guerrero claims to be 37, but in all likelihood he is older, considering that Dominican players often lie about their ages to MLB teams. Signing a nearly 40-year old to platoon in the outfield is a ludicrous idea on its face, and the fact that Guerrero has been aggressively training for a return to the big leagues doesn’t change that fact.
Arizona needs help, but they could definitely find it in better and cheaper places. If they throw a decent chunk of money at Guerrero, it would be a rare misstep for Kevin Towers and company, and the logic behind it would have to be seriously questioned if he doesn’t perform at a level that his salary dictates.
Guerrero isn’t in a position of power here. The Diamondbacks aren’t desperate, so if they overpay him, it isn’t because the market demanded that they do so. That is an important distinction, and one that Towers needs to keep in mind here. He needs to tread carefully, and think very seriously about the direction that he is wanting to take his team.