Free Vladimir Guerrero

Punctuation is so fascist. Throw punctuation on this title and you rob it the statement of its’ many possible meanings. While we can say that Vladimir Guerrero is now a free agent after the Blue Jays granted him his release, to say that Vladimir Guerrero is now free is much more ambiguous. And, in a way, captures more of the essence of what happened today.

For one, Guerrero may have demanded his release. According to Hector Gomez via Dustin Parkes at The Score, Guerrero was unhappy with how he was treated by the Blue Jays. The outfielder went on a rant about it:

Promises made to me were not fulfilled. I am not a child. One day I heard one thing and the next day another. I left the team, right now I am at home in Anaheim. I was not treated as a professional. I am not a boy. I proved that I’m ready, I have nothing more to prove in the minors with the numbers that I put. Last night after the game I sent my letter of resignation to the organization. I am not a boy. I demand respect. Let me make it clear I did not take this decision lightly, and had warned it would if I was not satisfied.

This rant came despite Alex Anthopoulos saying that there were “no guarantees on behalf of the club” when he spoke to the press about his signing. But a contract is a contract, even a minor league one, and Guerrero felt shackled by it. So now he’s free from that commitment and able to court with any team. Despite rumors that he would hang it up for good, it looks like he wants a job.

And of course, here’s the second meaning of free. Because Vlad Guerrero is now available for practically nothing. Could a contending team use a right-handed designated hitter for the second half? The Athletics often partake in reclamation projects like this for their DH spot, but they have Manny Ramirez banging around in the minor leagues right now. The Rangers use Mike Napoli and Michael Young in that spot, so they seem set. The Angels have too many DHs. Cleveland could use some thump, but Shelley Duncan is a decent right-handed DH bat. The Tigers signing a DH would be pretty funny, given their defensive situation now. In the East, the Orioles have already moved on, the older Red Sox and Yankee teams don’t need a DH.

Could the Rays give Guerrero a shot? They have Luke Scott for righties, but they could platoon him with Guerrero against lefties. Right now it’s an underwhelming merry-go-round of Jeff Keppinger and Hideki Matsui, and even Scott from time to time despite his bad platoon splits. The 37-year old Matsui is eight months older than Guerrero, coming off a lower peak, and currently having more trouble making contact than he ever has before. Matsui was bad on his 52-plate-appearance minor league jaunt (.170/.231/.213) and is now bad in the majors (.160/.160/.440 without a walk, and with a 12.5% swinging strike rate). Is there a chance Guerrero could be better? It would only cost a minor league contract — he’d be almost free.

And there’s one last ‘meaning’ of the word that has come out of FanGraphs posts of the past. Sometimes, it seems a player doesn’t get the shot they deserve. Guerrero would agree with the fact that he still has something left and that someone should give him a shot. Do we start a “Free Vladimir Guerrero” movement for him, then?

Probably not. Even if he’s more useful against lefties, the trend in his statistics is clear. The post-peak hitter has steadily walked less and hit for less power every year since 2007 save the Texas-aided resurgence in 2010. That trend continued in Triple-A, where he didn’t take a walk and hit for a .126 ISO in 30 at-bats. And didn’t look good, according to reports. And the market for a righty platoon designated hitter who can’t play the field, doesn’t run well on the bases, won’t take a walk, and has unclear power — let’s just say it’s not robust.

Vladimir Guerrero is now free in every sense of the word. He probably won’t like the feeling.

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

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