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Where to now, Vladimir Guerrero?

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Where to now, Vladimir Guerrero?

Posted on 14 March 2012 by Graham Womack

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time lately on Twitter, and the other day, @uniformcritic had an interesting tweet. To any baseball history fan unfamiliar with @uniformcritic, he’s worth a follow, generally providing vintage baseball photos and sometimes-rare film. On Sunday, though, he departed from form to tweet:

Vladimir Guerrero hit .290 last season and he can't find a job? Hard to believe.
@uniformcritic
Stirrups Now!

I have mixed feelings. Sure, Guerrero hit .290 last season. But he did it against an OPS+ of 101 and an aging-Joe-Carter-esque WAR of 0.1. Even by traditional numbers, Guerrero’s 2011 campaign with the Baltimore Orioles was nothing special. In nearly 600 plate appearances, Guerrero had 13 home runs and 63 RBI, and for hitting .290, his 17 walks made for an anemic .317 on-base percentage.

Slow-footed outfielders approaching 40 have been down the road Guerrero’s on before, and it generally doesn’t get any better. I’m reminded of Joe Carter, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco, and so many others. So the question is: Where to now, Vladimir Guerrero?

I see a few options for the current free agent and former all-world right fielder who in his prime was good for at least 30 home runs, 30 stolen bases, and an average somewhere around .330:

  1. Guerrero can retire: At 37, with 449 home runs, a .318 lifetime batting, and nine All Star appearances, there is no shame in this. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Guerrero’s already banked $125 million in his career. In his prime, he was one of the best in baseball. Unless steroid rumors surface, he’ll probably have an eventual, deserved spot in Cooperstown.
  2. Guerrero can accept a part-time role on a contender: This is easier said than done. With limited defensive abilities and just 20 games in the field since 2009, Guerrero might not make even a passable backup outfielder. He’s no pinch runner, and as a right-handed batter, he isn’t a great pinch hitting option, either. But he might fit somewhere on a team like the Yankees, who are glutted with a veritable senior center of options at designated hitter but play in a ballpark Guerrero is hitting .375 in, thus far.
  3. Guerrero can find a second-tier team willing to start him: Again, easier said than done. Guerrero went this route for 2011 and it equaled his one-and-done campaign with Baltimore. I don’t know what other American League team has an opening. The Royals have Billy Butler at designated hitter. The Mariners have Jesus Montero. The Athletics have what looks to be market corner on mediocre outfielders. Guerrero could try to find a weak-hitting National League like the Pirates or Astros willing to take a flyer on his glove, but that’s nothing to postpone retirement over.
  4. Guerrero can head to the independent or international circuits: The Atlantic League can offer Guerrero a chance for gaudy numbers. It’s where Carl Everett, Edgardo Alfonzo and so many others wound up in their mid-3os after their time in the show was up. Japan might be able to offer Guerrero more money, if that’s what he’s after at this point.

So those are Guerrero’s options as I see them, none of the possibilities particularly great. But it’s still a better end run in baseball than that of Sosa, Canseco, and so many others of Guerrero’s generation. Coming on the heels of the Steroid Era, that has to be good for something.

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