Saturday, November 14, 2009

What the Hell Were You Thinking? Carlos Guillen Edition

*Over the next couple of weeks, Jorge Says No! will take an in depth look at some of the worst contracts in baseball. We'll evaluate why the player was signed, what went wrong, and future implications of the contract. Behind every bone head decision, there has to be a reason for it...right?*

Why Re-Sign Guillen: How did Carlos Guillen get a 4 year/$48 million dollar contract from the Tigers? The answer: good timing and lots of luck. Guillen put together the best offensive season of any AL shortstop in 2006 by hitting 19 home runs, driving in 85, hitting .320, and scoring 102 runs. Guillen led all shortstops in OPS in 2006 and seemed to be a player on the rise.

At the same time, the Tigers were coming off a surprise run to the World Series and looked to lock up their core players long term. The Tigers identified Guillen as a core player and wanted to sign him to an extension before he could become a free agent after the season. With all those things in mind, the Tigers ultimately decided to make Guillen one of the highest paid shortstops in baseball and banked on him continuing to be a productive force at the dish.

As GM Dave Dombroski stated:
"We've very thrilled to reach this agreement," president/CEO/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "He's one of our core players who has done so much for us, not only on the field but off the field. We're very pleased to have done this."

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"We're very pleased to get this done," Dombrowski said. "It's something both sides have worked hard to get done. There's been a lot of compromises on both sides, for Carlos to stay part of the organization and for us to get him to remain. So we're absolutely thrilled."
What Went Wrong: Injuries, injuries, injuries. Guillen was actually a very productive player for the Tigers in 2007, but his 2008 and 2009 seasons have been cut short by injuries and he has failed to be the consistent, middle of the order hitter the Tigers needed.

In addition, Guillen can no longer play shortstop because of concerns about his agility and mobility. The Tigers have shifted Guillen from left field to first base to third base in the hopes of finding a suitable position for Guillen to play. For now, it looks like Guillen will be relegated to playing left field and being one of the Tigers primary DHs.

Future Implications: The Tigers are strapped financially this offseason as they have six or seven bad contracts on the books. Guillen's contract does not make matters any easier and restricts the Tigers payroll flexibility this winter. As a result of all these bad contracts, the Tigers might look to move Edwin Jackson and/or Curtis Granderson this winter. If the Tigers could find a taker for Guillen and the $20+ million owed to him over the next two years, I'm sure they would jump at the offer in heartbeat.

Lesson Learned: Injuries suck. There is no way to prevent them, but in the case of Guillen, there were warning signs from the start. Guillen missed significant time in 2003 and 2005 because of injuries, so does it surprise anyone to see that Guillen has dealt with his fair share of injuries over the past two seasons and that he is no longer able to play shortstop? I think not.

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