The biggest story out of the Tigers camp right now is a possible contract extension for Carlos Guillen. Michael Young’s 5 year $80 million deal certainly helped to stir the pot. I think that gambling on Guillen is something the Tigers need to do.
Drew Sharp says to let Guillen walk if he wants Michael Young money and years. That’s great, but who do you want playing shortstop then? Before spending really boomed, Orlando Cabrera was inked to a 4 year $32 million deal to play shortstop at the age of 30. The same Orlando Cabrera who has Deivi Cruz and Neifi Perez listed as comparables. This past offseason 30 year old Julio Lugo signed a deal that will pay him $9 million per for 4 years. Granted those deals are substantially less than Young’s contract, but it is still far from cheap.
Now if the Tigers had some homegrown talent waiting in the wings it would be different. But their top shortstop prospects, Michael Hollimon and Scott Sizemore, both look to be more of second basemen. Audy Ciriaco was intriguing after his 2005 season, but a disappointing 2006 in the GCL makes him a very long way away.
It’s been often noted that Guillen would lose much of his value if he had to move to first base, where he filled in on occasion last year. The 28 errors may make a move from short a necessity before the contract is done. But what I’ve failed to see mentioned is that Guillen could play other places than first base. Now shortstop and first base are on opposite ends of the defensive spectrum. A future move to 2nd or 3rd would still make Guillen’s offensive numbers look impressive. If Guillen could play short for 2 more years (which I certainly think is possible), he could then take over for Polanco at 2nd base.
Whether or not Guillen is worth Michael Young money is hard to say. Lee took a look at it, but “worth” is a hard thing to define given some of the recent contracts handed out. Brian compared the two players, and while Guillen is the better offensive player, Young laps him in terms of durability.
Most importantly, the Tigers have a window of opportunity right now. They have a mix of secured veteran talent who have a couple years left in them, as well as some young talent under club control for the next couple years. There is $66 million already committed for 2008 and $58 million for 2009. But after that existing contracts lighten as the Tigers prepare for the impending free agency of Bonderman in 2011 and Verlander in 2012. I know the Tigers don’t want to hurt themselves with a bad contract, and that they already have one in Magglio Ordonez, but they will have flexiblity come 2010.
The Tigers need to capitalize on the next few years. If it means paying Carlos Guillen in 2010 and 2011 to keep him a part of the team in 2008 and 2009 I think it the Tigers have to do it. There just aren’t alternatives available, unless you want to put all your eggs in a potential Alex Rodriguez basket.