So it's official: The Orioles have signed Vladimir Guerrero to a one-year, $8 million deal. Despite the fact that the O's already have a designated hitter (Luke Scott), they decided to bring Guerrero aboard anyway. Scott will likely shift to left field, meaning a lot less playing time for Felix Pie or Nolan Reimold -- or both.
Before I start to sound completely negative, it's worth noting that Guerrero is a fine hitter. Last season with the Rangers, he hit .300/.345/.496, and for his career he's a .320/.383/.563 hitter. As you can see, his numbers are in decline (he turns 36 next Wednesday), but he's still an above-average hitter who will get on base and hit for power.
Unfortunately, this move doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and here are a few reasons why:
1) As noted above, Scott was already penciled in as the team's DH, and there was no real reason to overpay for another DH. With Scott occupying left field, the O's have an important decision to make regarding Pie and Reimold. Both guys have shown some promise, and Guerrero's presence will not only limit both guys' playing time, but it will likely force one off of the opening day roster. I'm pretty sure that Reimold has a minor league option left, but I don't believe Pie does. Either way, neither player will be happy with his new role, and they're both starting to get older and less valuable (Pie turns 26 on Tuesday; Reimold is 27).
2) The O's are not a contending team, and this move does not push them closer to anything except maybe getting out of the AL East cellar or finishing with a .500 record. Don't get me wrong, those would be nice achievements, but they don't seem to be worth risking the chance of seeing Pie and Reimold develop into solid players. There's no guarantee of that happening, but there's less chance of that occurring now.
3) On a similar note, $8 million seems like a lot to pay for: a) a guy who can't play the field; b) an aging slugger whose body may start to break down soon; and c) a hitter who wasn't widely (or arguably even remotely) coveted. That's more of a knock on the O's than Guerrero, who probably has enough juice left in the tank for a couple more decent seasons.
Those are just my immediate thoughts, so I'm sure I missed plenty of good points. Here are some other reactions, both from O's fans and non-O's fans. (Note: This should be rather interesting, mostly because I haven't had the chance to read other takes on the signing until just now. Enjoy.)
-- "But you know what it feels like to me? 1998. If you recall, that’s the year we took fliers on Joe Carter and Doug Drabek. I realize there’s one huge difference here in that Guerrero had a good year last year while Carter and Drabek were both pretty clearly done when we brought them in. Still, there are echoes. In each case we’re talking about bringing in an aging 'name' veteran on a bloated contract and hoping he has enough left to contribute. . . . Maybe Guerrero does — this is certainly a smarter move than Carter or Drabek were. Maybe it’s even a subtle stroke of genius in that he could be flipped for an upper-tier prospect after a good first half. Hell, maybe he has a fantastic year and the O’s are still in contention for the Wild Card come August. All of these things are possible. . . . I’m not against being excited by 'maybe.' I do it every year with the O’s. But if I’m going on 'maybe' I’d rather it take the form of Pie and/or Reimold." [The Loss Column]
-- "Most fans seem to be looking at the name on the back of the jersey more than Vlad's actual production of late. So they are happy. But Vlad won't help as much as everyone thinks. I've detailed that. Others have too. And I'm sure I will again. . . . Let's not even discuss the money. There is little chance he will be worth that much and given the reduced market for his services, that's an incredible overpay. It had better not affect the draft budget." [Dempsey's Army]
-- "Guerrero's got a name, obviously. But can you really imagine the good people of Charm City getting excited about the chance to see Vladimir Guerrero bat four times? The truth is that there have been very, very, very few players who baseball fans would specifically pay to see. And while there might have been a year or two when Guerrero was one of those players, sort of, he's not anymore. . . . But wait, this gets worse. Guerrero's presence actually shoves a younger, cheaper, and decent-enough player to the bench (or the minors) and weakens the defense." [Rob Neyer, SB Nation]
-- "Interestingly . . . the O’s payroll now sits at approximately $93 million, approximately $20 million more than last season. . . . You can’t say the Orioles aren’t trying to win, but unless their young pitchers take a huge leap forward this season, it’s hard to imagine them being a contender." [D.J. Short, Hardball Talk]
-- "Even if you want Vlad on the team - I don't really, since I'd much rather watch Pie and Reimold play every day - but even if you do, it is still really dumb to pay $8 M to a guy who didn't have many potential job openings. Even if it's not my money, it doesn't instill me with confidence that Andy MacPhail will be making the kinds of moves the O's need him to make to compete in the AL East (where at least New York and Boston have more money, and all of the other GMs were already smarter in my opinion)." [Camden Crazies]
-- "Will Guerrero make the Orioles better? After shattering expectations for him in Texas, Guerrero came back to reality in the second half (.270 average/11 homers/ 45 RBI). He’s no spring chicken, either (he'll turn 36 Wednesday), so assuming he’ll replicate last year's 643 plate appearances in 2011 is being way too optimistic. His production is real, and the Orioles will give Vlad some good players to get on base in front of him. But living by 'the three run homer' philosophy isn't always the best strategy, and the Orioles pitching is not ready to compete in the AL East. One must wonder if all these moves are a vain attempt to appease a fan base that is desperate for the days of Cal Ripken." [Ben Pritchett, The Hardball Times]
-- "Can Guerrero do for the Orioles what he did for the Rangers last year? That's asking a lot, considering he's a year older and the O's are a lot farther away from being a contending team. But he gives the team that much more offensive credibility and gives fans a little more to look forward to as they club gets ready to open training camp just 10 days from now." [The Schmuck Stops Here]
I'm sure there's more, but that's enough. You get the idea -- mostly negative reactions, understandably. It's worth noting that the problem isn't really with the player the O's targeted; Guerrero will probably hit just fine and give the O's what they were looking for. The problem is with bringing in something that wasn't really needed for too much money while also possibly giving up on other younger, cheaper options. So yeah, that's definitely a concern, particularly in the organization's overall decision-making process.