Reports surfaced early Friday morning that Vladimir Guerrero was attempting another comeback to the majors at the age of 38, and was willing to sign a minor league deal to do so. Guerrero was last seen in the majors in 2011 with the Baltimore Orioles, but was with the Toronto Blue Jays for 12 games last year, before asking for his release.
In his last full season in 2011, Guerrero hit .290 with 13 HRs and 63 RBIs in 145 games. Those numbers aren’t awful, but they are below the expectations that Guerrero had created after he hit 30-35 HR and drove in 100 plus RBI every season for the better part of a decade in the late 1990s, and throughout most of the 2000s.
It was also reported that Guerrero’s camp approached the Minnesota Twins about a possible deal, but were told “no” by Twins General Manager Terry Ryan. It makes sense from Guerrero’s perspective that he should attempt to make a comeback at this time of spring training, because a lot of teams will be without some of their marquee players who will be off playing in the World Baseball Classic.
This provides an opportunity for Guerrero to get ample playing time with the hope that he can impress a team enough to garner a roster spot heading into 2013. Guerrero could very well could still be a valuable player to a team in the right capacity — like a bat off the bench, designated hitter or platoon outfielder — and for the right money.
Players like Jim Thome have extended their careers by accepting a lesser role and focusing on becoming a huge contributor off the bench in pinch-hitting situations. Guerrero could extend his career an additional two to three seasons if he were to accept a role like that in the twilight of his career.
At this point—however—it is unclear as to what expectations and goals that Guerrero has in mind that are fueling his desire for a comeback. Does he want to win a championship or does he want to play the game he loves?
If he wants to win a championship, he is going to have to accept a smaller role, because he is not capable of being an everyday player on a contending team. If he wants to play for the love of the game, his options become a little more open-ended.
This brings us to the report that Guerrero was interested in playing for the Twins. It makes sense that Guerrero’s camp views the situation in Twins’ territory as an opportunity to garner ample playing time on a young and inexperienced lineup. But from the Twins’ camp, this move would make zero sense.
I applaud Ryan for not taking a chance on this guy simply for the fact that I believe he is not interested in taking on a part-time, pinch-hitter role with this team. Thome has accepted roles like this in the past, and that is why he would make sense if the Twins were to pursue signing him as a bat off the bench.
Until Guerrero accepts a role like that, he is of no interest to the Twins because the options they have in the outfield are young and need playing time.
Aging free-agents just aren’t the way to go for a rebuilding team, and Ryan realizes this. The key to the Twins regaining their footing in the American League and becoming contenders again will be based on the development of their next group of talented young players.
At this point, the Twins must take their growing pains with that bunch of players and hope to grow with them into a contender over the next few seasons. Veteran players can play a supporting role in that growth, but they can also deteriorate their growth if they take away too much of their playing time.
The Twins have made the right move by declining to sign Guerrero, and they must continue to remain dedicated to their plan to build from within, no matter how painful the growing pains are going to get along the way.