Sunday, January 23, 2011

Vlad the Impaler

The Orioles and Vladimir Guerrero are reportedly dancing.

There have been several reports that the Orioles are close to a deal with free-swinging slugger, Vladimir Guerrero, formerly of the Expos, Angels and Rangers.

Guerrero was always one of my favorite players, especially when he was on the Expos, a team I rooted for throughout my childhood until they moved to Washington and became the Nationals. I loved Guerrero's hack-first, ask questions later approach at the plate and his ability to take a pitch two inches off the ground and put it into the seats.

I was very disappointed when Vlad rejected the Orioles in 2004 to sign with the Angels. After the additions that the Orioles had made that year (Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez and Rafael Palmeiro) signing Vlad and putting him into that line-up would have been a coup. But Vlad wanted to play in a city with a large Latino population and as we all know, Los Angeles has muchas Latinas.

Guerrero, now 36, with a back that is on life support, can still be an offensive weapon. Last year he hit .300 with 29 home runs and 115 RBI's. He also played in 152 games after missing 80 games over the two previous years before that. So while his health and age would be a major concern, there is still reason to believe that Guerrero could make it through the season.

But looking at the current roster, one has trouble seeing where Guerrero would fit. Luke Scott is currently the team's DH, and his 2010 campaign was even better than Guerrero's. Signing Guerrero, who shouldn't be playing any position in his physical condition, would move Scott to LF, a position he hasn't played regularly since 2008. Scott would also supplant defensive whiz, Felix Pie, and stick him on the bench and place comeback hopeful Nolan Reimold back in Norfolk.

The O's could also trade Scott if they signed Vlad, but I would be against it. Vlad would be here for one year and Scott is signed through the 2012 season for about $ 5 million dollars a year, depending on arbitration, and is a steal at any contract that pays him less than $10 million. Unless the O's were able to land a young SS or 1B prospect for Scott, I'd rather keep him despite his radical political views.

So while adding Guerrero to a line-up would give the team some offensive depth, it would decrease our defense and handcuff Showalter since Guerrero would be a DH-only. Also, signing Guerrero for 1 year does nothing for the long-term future of the team. If the Orioles believed they could contend in 2011, Guerrero could make some sense. But not even Andy MacPhail or Buck Showalter should believe that they can contend for the postseason this year so adding Guerrero really doesn't do anything for the Orioles. Especially when you consider the very real possibility that he will miss a portion of the season.

So while I would enjoy seeing one of my former favorite players in an Orioles uniform this season, it would only be for one year, and the Orioles would probably be better off taking the money they'd spend on Guerrero and invest it into the amateur draft or international scouting -- two things that would help the future of the club.

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