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The Guillen Gamble

Carlos Guillen
credit Roger DeWitt

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.

Posted by on March 4, 2007.

Categories: Contracts, Players

20 Responses

  1. I completely agree with your entire sentiments here. They have to look around and see what the answer would be at SS in the next 2 years if they lose Guillen. There isn’t going to be much available in FA. They don’t really have a prospect on the way.

    They would probably have to make two moves. One for a bat and one for an SS.

    I also think that a move from SS to 2B makes more sense than a move from SS to 1B. Especially given Polanco’s contract situation. That would give the team around 2 seasons to find the SS replacement.

    I think it was important to note the future contract situations. They don’t have a ton of money committed beyond 2009.

    Either way this offseason they need to figure out a long term answer at 1B. If you let Guillen go you need to figure out a long term answer at SS and 1B.

    by Brian on Mar 4, 2007 at 11:09 pm

  2. I agree, Guillen has been our best hitter and seems to get better as he ages, I know that will stop at some point, but he is only 31…he should have at least 2 more years of very solid offensive production. He has said he liked Detroit in ’04 so I’m pretty sure he enjoys it more now. He is also a manager on the field, which somewhat of a rare find.

    If he wants 3 give it to him, if he wants 4 or 5 give it to him but with protection clauses, he is wayyy to valuable to lose

    Personally I’d rather see my favorite two players switch positions Inge to short and Guillen to third. Even though Inge has won much more games with his glove than most give him credit four… I’d guess around 10-15, he’d be more useful at SS and Guillen at third. Even going around on his bad knee Guillen has 34 more assists than Inge last year (and we all know they don’t have the same range)


    also compairs the two

    Lastly if the game was on the line last year who would you want at bat?

    Monroe? All or Nothing, Mr Swing for the Fences
    Ordonez? .781 OPS with RISP w/ 2outs

    Guillen .917 OPS with runners on base… need I say more?

    by David on Mar 5, 2007 at 2:20 am

  3. I was going to post basically what David did. I wouldn’t mind him moving to 2nd base for Polanco then shifting Inge to SS if there’s a lack of quality options for SS’s then, and find a 3B.

    After the 2009 season, when the Tigers free up money (Sheff, Maggs, Polanco’s contracts all come off the books, barring any extensions given to any of them), Miguel Cabrera is a FA then. He’ll be 25/26 and I’d gladly watch Inge at SS if we could use the extra cash then to make a run at Miggy (though unrealistic considering the market for him will be ENORMOUS). By that time, we could have resigned Infante, depending on how the next couple years go and finally give him another shot at a starting job (2nd base) and move Guillen over to 1st for the remaining 1-2 years of his contract. 1st base would also put less wear and tear on Guillen’s knees, which will help him on the basepaths, as well.

    by Mike R on Mar 5, 2007 at 3:04 am

  4. There is no guarantee that Cabrera will be a free agent. I am guessing the Marlins will try to trade him the year before he becomes a free agent. If they can do it, that team will do all it can to extend him.

    If you have a shot at getting Cabrera though you have to offer whatever he wants. I am talking Alex Rodriguez type contract.

    by Brian on Mar 5, 2007 at 10:48 am

  5. I’d be very leery of signing Carlos to a Michael Young-type deal. Given his age and injury history, and the fact that there’s already talk of moving him to 1B, the wheels could fall off anytime. He could, of course, excel for years to come… but it’s a big risk.

    We shouldn’t fall too much in love with any single player, even one who contributed greatly to the 2006 surprise. Nobody is irreplaceable; there are always options, especially when a team is not weighed down with big contracts. I’ve lived in New England for the last 7 years, and I’ve seen the Red Sox turn over almost their entire roster and stay competitive.

    Now, I have no idea what kind of contract Carlos is looking for. Is he demanding a Michael Young deal? Is he willing to sign a shorter contract, or a less lucrative one? If so, the risk is substantially lower. I’m not saying I don’t want to sign Carlos, but I would hate to commit 5 years and 80 mil.

    by jvwalt on Mar 5, 2007 at 10:53 am

  6. It hurts to say this,inasmuch as I feel Guillen is far and away the Tigers best position player,but if he’s looking for Young type money for five years,they should let him walk-his injury history makes it too much of a gamble.
    Similar money,prorated for games played(he misses a lot of games compared to Young) and for three years instead of five would be a good deal for both sides.
    Inge has not won 10-15 games with his glove.No one has.

    by Bob S. on Mar 5, 2007 at 11:58 am

  7. I really, really like Guillen as a player. He is my favorite Tiger. But as much as it pains me to say this, I actually agree with Drew Sharp. I don’t think the Tigers should make a huge long-term committment to Guillen. He is now post-30 and with a history of injuries. I would offer him a contract, but in the range of 2-3 years at $10-12 million per. I think he will be a productive hitter for serveral more seasons if he can avoid injury. But I question whether he can be an effective shortstop. The Tigers have two huge questions to answer over the next few seasons at shortstop and catcher.

    by Thinking Man on Mar 5, 2007 at 12:23 pm

  8. [...] The other thing I noticed was Billfer’s piece about Carlos Guillen and his willingness to take a gamble to keep Guillen in Detroit. He’s basically saying he’d be willing to give Guillen something close to what the Rangers gave their star shortstop, Michael Young – five years and $80M. He makes a good case, even though I don’t believe a player who is no longer effective at shortstop can be expected to be effective at second base (there may be a future study in that statement). Still, if I’m the Tigers, I cannot see offering Guillen a five year deal. I can see beating the average salary in the Young deal with something like three years and $54 or $57M, but I would just be too anxious about that fourth and fifth season. I agree entering 2008 without Guillen is not a happy thought, and if he wants to go hard line for a longer deal, I might try to appease him with options for 2010 and 2011. I just can’t see giving him a deal as long as what Young received, and if Guillen wants to walk to get five years on the open market, the Tigers will just have to get creative in the next offseason. My suggestion would be to find a defensive wiz who doesn’t cost as much and try to make up the lost runs at the plate at a less expensive position. My gut tells me this fretting is all for naught, though. I bet Guillen gets brought into the fold, and I bet people will be surprised at what his camp accepts. [...]

    by Back in the Saddle « Talking Tigers on Mar 5, 2007 at 1:41 pm

  9. While there is no guarantee, Brian, that Miggy Cabrera will be a FA after the 2009 season, my guess is despite getting traded he’d test the market. The market will just be way too big to not test for a mid 20′s 3rd basemen putting up the astounding numbers he’s putting up.

    My bottom line is I do not want Carlos Guillen at SS past 2008.

    by Mike R on Mar 5, 2007 at 3:03 pm

  10. If (big if) the Tigers can’t re-sign Guillen, I’d love to see Alex Rodriguez at SS

    by Slashpyne on Mar 5, 2007 at 4:22 pm

  11. “If he wants 3 give it to him, if he wants 4 or 5 give it to him but with protection clauses, he is wayyy to valuable to lose” – David

    Totally agree with this statement. 4-5 years is a HUGE gamble. Besides Yuniesky Betancourt should be about ready for shipment by then….maybe Bavasi’ll take Ramon back???

    by Chris Y. on Mar 5, 2007 at 5:13 pm

  12. A couple of thoughts:

    ARod can’t even play 3B right now. He’s bigger, slower and I don’t see him going back to SS. Inge doesn’t have SS range. Infante could still be good, although Leyland seems down on him. Polanco and Guillen make a great combo right now and maybe for ’08, IF they are healthy. A big if, especially with Guillen. I love Guillen as a player but 5 years and $80 mil is crazy money for him. If I were DD I would be looking to deal for a young SS who can’t land a job, like Erick Aybar for instance. Then they can move Guillen to 1b, to dh or to a Tony Phillips type utility slot, which he would be great at. I can’t see Guillen full time at 2B, 2Bs get hurt constantly. Miguel Cabrera at 8 years $160 mil is a better deal than Guillen for 5 and 80. Let him go if he can get it from somebody else. But I do think they will sign him.

    by Tim D on Mar 5, 2007 at 11:01 pm

  13. I think the fundamental point of this post is solid – you can pay a LOT of guys $30+m for four years. Many of them make you wish you hadn’t With Guillen you know you’re getting a first rate performer. I’ll take the devil I know, thanks.

    by adr on Mar 6, 2007 at 10:31 am

  14. Alex Rodriguez has lost weight to improve his range and mobility and, in my opinion, to say that he could not play SS anymore is just plain foolish. He’s the best defensive SS on the Yankees squad and if/when he moves back to SS he’ll be the best all around SS in baseball. It’s not like he’s 45 years old and out there for records, he’s still got above average range (which will improve with him dropping a few lbs), a very good arm, and (save for last year) an accurate arm as well. Just because he hasn’t become Brooks Robinson at 3B doesn’t mean he’s washed up as a fielder.

    by Mike R on Mar 6, 2007 at 2:09 pm

  15. If you go to this link you will see the list of possible 2008 free agents.

    So the following players are the possible SS to replace Guillen with and their production numbers over their career:

    Vizquel (.276/.342/.360)
    Eckstein (.283/.351/.359)
    Uribe (.258/.297/.433) – Club Option for 2008.

    Guillen (.289/.358/.440) and with the Tigers he has been better than that….

    So you are losing a ton of offense replacing Guillen with any of those guys. Dunn has a 13 M club option as well if people plan on replacing Guillen’s bat by putting him at 1B.

    As for the comment about Cabrera. You could be absolutely right that he will test free agency. I think that depends on who he is traded to if anyone. If he is available they should offer him whatever it takes.

    by Brian on Mar 6, 2007 at 6:08 pm

  16. The list of possible 2008 free agents:

    So the following players are the possible SS to replace Guillen with and their production numbers over their career:

    Vizquel (.276/.342/.360)
    Eckstein (.283/.351/.359)
    Uribe (.258/.297/.433) – Club Option for 2008.

    Guillen (.289/.358/.440) and with the Tigers he has been better than that….

    So you are losing a ton of offense replacing Guillen with any of those guys. Dunn has a 13 M club option as well if people plan on replacing Guillen’s bat by putting him at 1B.

    As for the comment about Cabrera. You could be absolutely right that he will test free agency. I think that depends on who he is traded to if anyone. If he is available they should offer him whatever it takes.

    by Brian on Mar 6, 2007 at 6:45 pm

  17. Something tells me Rodriguez would never agree to play in Detroit.I agree that he’s the best SS on the Yankees and the second best in New York.Jeter is one of the most overrated players in the game.Not only that,but a real leader would have stepped aside to let the better player have the position.Being the Yankee hater I am,I’m glad he didn’t.

    by Bob S. on Mar 6, 2007 at 7:44 pm

  18. I agree with what most of you are saying. I do think that there is some potential for homegrown talent. I really like this kid Audy Ciriaco. He is a good shortstop with a good bat. In addition let’s not forget that he is only 19 and would just be starting his college career. I agree with the author of the post that Ciriaco had a disappointing season in 2006 but I would point to his stints against better competition as a sign that he will be able to come through. During spring training last year he played well when they placed him in the 3A group and during both 2005 and 2006 Audy played exceptionally well in the Instructional League which is considered by many to be better competition. I know it’s clichéd to say that he just needs to be tested against better competition but it has, at least to a certain extent, seemed that way. I do, however, agree that Audy still needs a bit of work and growing up and all that will happen in time. You have a great blog. I found it surfing the web and I will return to read your posts. Keep up the great work!

    by James on Mar 26, 2007 at 3:40 pm

  19. James -

    Welcome. I’m glad you like what you see and hope you stick around.

    I too am intrigued by Ciriaco. By noting his struggles I wasn’t trying to write him off. As you mention he’s still very young, but he’s also still a ways a way. Even if he becomes a stud, it probably wouldn’t be until 2009 at the very earliest that he’d be able to help the team (and that’s pretty optimistic).

    by billfer on Mar 26, 2007 at 7:24 pm

  20. [...] Related: The Guillen Gamble [...]

    by The Detroit Tiger Weblog » Blog Archive » Promising news on Guillen front? on Mar 29, 2007 at 6:20 am

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