|Two Hall of Famers in one picture. Go figure.|
His is a name that hasn't been floated out there very much but Vladimir Guerrero could very well be a member of the Toronto Blue Jays by offseason's end. Haven't heard about it? No kidding. You didn't hear about Sergio Santos either.
You're stunned, I understand. Take a minute to digest what I just said. Where on earth did this Vladdy thing come up? Well, truth be told it hasn't - it's the product of your run of the mill baseball discussion and a "huh" moment. While it almost seems ridiculous that Guerrero is A) still playing and B) would be a target for the Jays, the marriage isn't as unlikely as you may think and I've now talked myself into thinking this could actually happen.
In fact, I've almost fallen in love with the idea. I'm your Michael Lewis and this is my Moneyball. (swoon)
It's no secret that the Jays need an additional big bat to give some added protection to likes of Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus (who Jon Morosi is convinced is the be all and end all of this season since the Jays didn't win Yu Darvish's negotiating rights) and Brett Lawrie.
You say: But Edwin Encarnacion is our designated hitter!
I say: Exactly.
Make no mistake here, I think EE has a great power stroke. The side camera angle on his swing when he goes yard is absolutely beautiful. That being said, he's not an everyday bat on a team which would like to win a ton of games at some point in time.
Enter Vladimir Guerrero.
I'll start with the baseball intangibles because those translate into wins and losses. On that note, I'll start with the negatives of Vladdy - he's old, he's an injury risk and he couldn't hold a candle to the Vlad of a decade ago.
Now that we're past that we can continue here.
Guerrero had a tough year in 2011 which can be largely chalked up to the fact that he played for the Baltimore Orioles who are inept in every way and the fact he's getting older. We have seen in the past, however, that a (VERY) hitter friendly home ballpark and a talented lineup can do wonders for someone at the end of their rope. Guerrero is looking for one last kick at the can to further cement his place in history, and what better place to do it than Toronto - in the country it all began, no less (more on that in a moment).
As of right now using the Bill James projections as a guide, Guerrero could walk on to the Jays and take the DH job with ease. Assuming Encarnacion is the man slated for the job right now, Guerrero is projected to top Encarnacion in both weighted runs created (68 vs. 55) and weighted runs above average (11.5 vs. 9.6) - both key metrics in determining a player's offensive value. In other words, Guerrero is expected to generate more offensive production than Encarnacion regardless of who he's playing for. Last time Guerrero played for a competent team in an offensively inclined ballpark - Texas, 2010 - he posted an OPS of .841 (despite having the second lowest batting average on balls in play of his career) with a wRC of 94 and wRAA of 20.2 - both solid numbers for a player well past his prime.
While I'm not saying that Guerrero is a lock to post those numbers again, I am saying that he should be given a long, hard look by Blue Jays brass given that he would be an immediate upgrade over Encarnacion. Moreover, Guerrero's OPS at Skydome over the past three seasons is the highest of any ballpark in which he has had more than 25 at-bats (1.020) - the next closest being Yankee Stadium where the Jays play once or twice I think - and even higher than that of The Ballpark in Arlington where he experienced a career resurgence. In other words, Vlad loves hitting at the Dome. The proof is in the pudding with his career OPS in Toronto at 1.011 through over 200 plate appearances.
I think it's fair to say at this point that the combination of his career stats and 2012 projections make this a risk worth taking. Internally however, it has always been clear that the Jays will only go in on players at a value they feel is fair. At this point in his career, Guerrero can only demand ageing DH money which is hardly a financial burden for this team to handle - we're not talking Prince Fielder earning $250 million over 12 seasons. In 2010 during his renaissance Guerrero was paid $5.5 million by the Rangers before taking a raise of $1.1 million from an Orioles team desperate for anyone to come play for them. Realistically, the Jays could offer Guerrero a one year deal at $6 million and get him to come play as their everyday DH. When you consider that Juan Rivera was hauling in $5.25 million, doesn't that seem like a risk worth taking?
Let's not forget there is a personal connection between management and Guerrero as well. Alex Anthopoulos joined the Expos organization in 2000 when Guerrero's star was just beginning to rise in baseball. As essentially a volunteer player assistant, Anthopoulos would have been around Guerrero constantly, no doubt sorting the masses of fan mail I can only imagine he got each week. At the end of the day, if Guerrero is looking for a job as this offseason drags on it only makes sense that the guy who was once a personal assistant to Guerrero would be willing to give him a shot in a low risk, high reward type of move.
Make no mistake about it, Vladimir Guerrero could be a member of the Jays in 2012 and that would be a very good thing for the team and its fans. The fact you haven't heard anything just makes it more likely.