The Angels Should Sign Vladimir Guerrero

If we ran a poll on what team has had the worst off-season to date, I’m certain that the Angels would win in a landslide. From losing out on Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre – including watching him go to the division rival they’re trying to chase down – to the inexplicable Vernon Wells trade, the Angels have just swung and missed this winter. But they don’t have to be done just yet, and there’s a player on the market who could help them both in 2011 and beyond, and if they signed him, he could end up earning his entire salary back and then some.

That player  is Vladimir Guerrero, who looks to be the last DH still standing around when the music stops and all the chairs are gone. Guerrero originally wanted to parlay his rebound season into a multi-year contract, but now he’s just looking for a job. With Bobby Abreu likely to shift to DH after the Wells acquisition, the Angels might not have a full-time spot for him, but Abreu is actually the reason they should make a strong run at Guerrero to begin with.

When the Angels signed Abreu to a two year, $19 million contract last winter, they included a vesting option for a third year in the deal. If Abreu records either 550 plate appearances in 2011 or 1,100 PA in 2010 and 2011 combined, then the option becomes guaranteed for $9 million. Abreu racked up 667 plate appearances last year, which lowered the bar for the vesting option to just 433 trips to the plate this season.

Abreu has accumulated at least 589 PA in every single season since 1998. Since becoming a full-time player, he has never played in less than 150 games in a season, and has averaged 680 plate appearances per season. He’s the unrecognized iron man, perhaps the most durable player in the game today. If the Angels are hoping that a timely injury might cause Abreu to miss enough time to fall below the option threshold, they’re betting against the wrong horse. Even at 37, Abreu is a good bet to blow past 433 plate appearances if given full-time DH work.

Given their financial commitments and needs on the roster, the 2012 Angels could really benefit from not paying Abreu $9 million to be a mediocre aging DH. In order to keep that from happening, they need to keep Abreu out of the line-up on a semi-regular basis in 2011, and they need to do it in a way that will give them a reasonable explanation for the move. If they just attempted to bench him in favor of a lesser player to keep the option from vesting, the union would file a grievance, and the whole thing would get messy.

But it would be nearly impossible for the union, or even Abreu, to object to sharing time with Guerrero. Not only was he better than Abreu last year, but he’s got the whole franchise icon thing going on, and the Angels could make a pretty easy case that being able to bring Guerrero back once his market collapsed was a move they just had to make.

With Guerrero and Abreu sharing time at DH, the Angels should be able to keep his option from vesting, and do so without significantly hurting the team in the process. Abreu probably needs to be platooned anyway (.286 wOBA vs LHP last year), and Guerrero could take enough starts against RHPs to limit him to around the 100 games played mark, keeping him off the books for 2012.

Even if it costs the Angels $7 or $8 million to sign Guerrero in 2011, they’d save themselves $9 million off their 2012 budget, and would come out ahead financially. The team is also likely to get better production from this year’s Guerrero than they are next year’s Abreu, so even without factoring in the cost savings, they’re turning a similar amount of money into better performance.

If Guerrero is willing to sign with the Angels for less than $9 million, he’ll be worth his entire salary by giving the team a valid excuse to put Bobby Abreu on the bench 60 times next year.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

47 Responses to “The Angels Should Sign Vladimir Guerrero”

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  1. Cody says:

    How is Abreu a “mediocre aging DH”? I understand the “aging” and “DH” parts, but he has been anything but “mediorce”, he has been one of the most productive players since 1998. He can still run (even with the gut) and gets on base at a .350+ rate. I think people are focusing to much on age rather than production. I guarantee a “rebound year” from Abreu with an improved LAA lineup around him.

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    • Choo says:

      Unless you are God in a time machine, it’s not 1998 and you can’t guarantee crap. Besides, go look at his numbers. He’s been creeping down the backside of his career for several years now. Sure, bad luck played a part in his 2010 BABIP, but there were also plenty of non-luck indicators to suggest Abreu’s bat speed is about to fall off a cliff.

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  2. JH says:

    Do you know if the union ever won a grievance against a team for benching a guy in order to avoid an option vesting, Dave? It seems like a really messy situation where they’d have to convince an arbitrator that there isn’t even a colorable argument for a legitimate baseball reason behind the move.

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    • AA says:

      Most of the time, MLB and the team know when they will lose (like with the Magglio Ordonez situation) and will back off.

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  3. MTUCache says:

    I wondered at first if they wouldn’t be better off trying to go after Michael Young, but I think now that this would be a much easier way of going about finishing off their lineup.

    Besides, after Vlad’s reception at the ASG, I think this would be a lot easier to sell to their fanbase than the Wells trade.

    I’m not sure I’m on-board with sitting Abreu as often as possible (i.e. the Tigers with Magglio last year). How much more confident are we in Bourjos/Willits at CF than Hunter? I’m not all that crazy about an outfield of Hunter/Abreu/Wells, but I think it makes their lineup a lot more formidable to have both Abreu and Vlad in there on an everyday basis than to put a defensive specialist at CF who’s a hole in the lineup.

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    • Evan Kirkwood says:

      There’s no possible way to justify having Abreu play the field. Bourjos has been an above average hitter at every minor league stop (not just the hitter’s paradise of Salt Lake) and both Bill James and the Fans project him to be a roughly average hitter. Combine that with his freakish defense and you have a much, much better player than Abreu’s miserly defense in a corner outfield spot with good-but-not-great offense.

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      • MTUCache says:

        I agree that he would be a defensive liability compared to Bourjos, and the best solution for the Angels is probably the lineup they have right now (sans Vlad)…

        If they’re looking for a reason not to play Abreu so his option doesn’t kick in (i.e., they’re 10 games back by the ASB), they’d better hope that Willits is “needed” everyday in the OF and that Wells/Hunter need a spell at DH. That solution would be a heck of lot less expensive than a $5M backup-DH.

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  4. Terence McDonagh says:

    Ignoring the fact that Guerrero would not sign as a part time DH…

    Abreu even at DH could very easily be worth 2 WAR next season. 60 games of Guerrero is going to be worth what? Best case scenario 1 WAR?

    Yet you’d be willing to pay up to 8 mil to piss off one of your best players and save a lousy $1 mil.


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    • JH says:

      Do you see a lot of people knocking down the door to sign Vlad?

      Vlad will sign for the team willing to pay him more than the Orioles’ most recent lowball offer (reportedly in the neighborhood of $2 million). There isn’t really a team left without a player ticketed for a decent number of PAs at DH, and it’s well established that Vlad has no place in the field anymore. Part-time DH is likely all that’s available to him.

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      • Terrence McDonagh says:

        Orioles, Blue Jays, Tigers, Royals, Indians, Mariners all have room for him. So I guess only half the American League.

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      • Chris in Hawaii says:

        The Orioles most recent lowball offer has also been reported (by Roch Kubatko, who actually covers the team) as being between $3-$5 million, so about $4 million.

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      • DJW says:


        The Mariners already signed Jack Cust to DH, and they have no more money in the budget (plus a first baseman in Smoak and a poor-fielding 4th outfielder in Bradley). They’re not going to consider signing Guerrero.

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  5. Matty Brown says:

    If they really wanted to avoid Abreu’s option vesting than Scioscia could just bench Abreu in favor of Jeff Mathis.

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  6. Lincoln says:

    The M’s should sign him.

    They need another old washed up no defensive DH type to clog their bench.

    Maybe they should just resign Griffey instead…

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  7. Brian says:

    I get the logic, but can’t you accomplish the same thing with Mike Sweeney (maybe a bad example) or any number of other players for $7M less? If we’re only talking about 300 PAs, then I don’t know that throwing $8M at Vlad is the best use of their limited res… oh wait… they aren’t restrained by payroll. WASTE AWAY, ANGELS!

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  8. Dan says:

    What about offering Vlad a two-year deal at, say, $4.5 million per. That way, you give Vlad the two-year deal he wants, and have him in 2012 for $4.5 mil, which should be pretty good value for him even at his age.

    I doubt any team gives him $8 or $9 million at this point for 1 year.

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  9. Kevin says:

    I like the idea of having abreu in left..wells in center..and hunter in right
    it’s still a really good outfield and the angels would have a spot on the DH for Guerrero
    during that would give Peter bourjous to go back to the minors n focus on bringing his offense with him when he gets called back up..not just defense
    Next season I think the Angels should focus on making there infield much more productive and have third base filled with a power hitting veteran. There infield isn’t that great besides Kendry Morales
    they need veterans and productivity at 2nd and shortstop that can actually take the angels far

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    • chuckb says:

      In what world is that a really good outfield? It would probably the worst defensively in the majors. They would be pretty good offensively but their defensive deficiencies will negate much of their value. Expecting that outfield to be any better than league average would be really optimistic.

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    • AA says:

      Hunter is a better CFer than Wells. That said, Bourjos is so amazing with the glove that even if his bat doesn’t come around yet, you are better off DHing Abreu.

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  10. Tasintango says:

    I don’t understand the logic of throwing $8M at Vlad to be a part time DH. Makes no sense at all to me.

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    • Erik says:

      Well that was sort of what the article was about. Anything in particular that didn’t make sense? Maybe you should reread the last two paragraphs.

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  11. Grant says:

    New title:

    The Blue Jays Should Sign Vladimir Guerrero

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  12. chuckb says:

    If we assume that playing Vlad 60 times a year against lefties (and sitting Abreu) adds 1 win to the 2011 Angels, Vlad is worth roughly $5 million. So going w/ Abreu as a full-time DH then costs the team 1 win and $5 M this year but saves them $9 M next year.

    But someone has to play DH for the team next year. Assuming Abreu is a 1.5 to 2 win DH in 2012, re-signing him would cost the team at least $7 M and, potentially, as much as $11 M (assuming 10% inflation). That’s a net loss to the Angels of $5 M. This assumes a $5 M, 1 year contract for Vlad. Anything less than $5 M saves the team that much money.

    On the other hand, let’s say they go with Abreu all year long, his contract vests and they pay him next year $9 M for production worth $7 M. That’s a net loss of $2 M. Even if he’s only worth 1 WAR, their loss is still less than this year’s.

    It seems to me that it only makes sense to sign Vlad if they can do so for $2 M or less. It’s not like next year’s contract is that outlandish.

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    • FFFFan says:

      Thanks for saving me the time to make this analysis, I was thinking similarly as I was reading the article.

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    • shamus says:

      not criticizing, just clearing up the numbers, but where do you get that $5M loss in the first scenario? If they’re spending $5M on Vlad (and adding a Win) and saving $9M on Abreu’s option, in order to then “lose” $5M overall re-signing Abreu would cost $9 mil in 2012, but you value him at $7M in the second scenario. I only question the numbers because I think it can just simply be said that Vlad is worth up to: $9M plus his added production this season minus what you think Abreu’s production will be in 2012. If I’m correct, then Vlad would theoretically be worth up to $7M if he’s worth an extra Win ($5M) this year and Abreu is only worth $7M next year (9+5-7). Now it doesn’t seem to my very untrained eye that Vlad will be worth more than an added half-win this year, but even his mere presence would seem to be worth AT LEAST the $2M you save in 2012 based on your predictions.

      I think maybe you didn’t account for how much more production Vlad is adding over Abreu’s PA against lefties, or, possibly more likely, I’ve done something wrong in the math. I come to your same conclusion that the option isn’t that bad though, and I don’t think saving a couple million dollars would be worth denying Abreu his option when he could be perfectly serviceable next year.

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      • chuckb says:

        If they choose to go just w/ Abreu, they lose the win (worth $5M) they would have gained by signing Vlad. That’s a $5M loss that they attempt to offset by “gaining” $9 M next year. I assumed that playing Vlad 60 times against lefties would be worth 1 win more than playing Abreu those 60 times against lefties. If you pay Vlad $5 M for that win, it comes out a wash.

        So, w/ Vlad at $5 M — they avoid Abreu’s contract vesting but have to pay market price for his production next year so they end up paying out an additional $5 M over the 2 years.

        W/ Abreu only — they pay Abreu $9 M next year (for $7 M production) but save the $5 M they would have spent on Vlad, thus costing them just $2 M.

        If the point is to save the Angels money, eating the extension is probably the best way. And this doesn’t include any buyout of Abreu’s contract which would add additional coin to the “w/ Vlad option.”

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      • Erik says:

        A couple ideas:

        1) I don’t know what the Angel’s farm system looks like, but the DH in 2012 could potentially be filled by a cheap young player, or could be filled by removing an underperforming veteran from the field. Either way, there’s potential for surplus value out of the DH spot in 2012.

        2) Each roster spot has some value due to scarcity, and the DH spot may be the most valuable due to its flexibility. So there may be some unaccounted for value by freeing up this spot.

        3) It may be easier to sell the idea of a Vlad/Bobby platoon than the idea of telling Bobby to ride the pine in 2012. It’s hard to factor PR considerations into quantitative analysis, but it’s clear that at least some teams do.

        I would posit that the combination of these three things would probably add up to make this move at least a net 0, if not net positive, even though the initial numbers make it looks like $8M for Vlad is a net negative. It would be nice to see this analysis carried out though.

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  13. R.Munkee says:

    Vlad will either NOT get signed this season – ala Jermaine Dye of last season – or he will sign a ONE year contract like Manny just signed, or Thome signed last season, for $1-2mm.

    Also, if it’s to platoon, Abreu will face all the RH pitching and that – barring injury – will ensure him at LEAST 450 PAs in 2011- more than enough to vest 2012.

    The ONLY saving grace for the Angels is that they have a $1mm buyout possibility for 2012, so even if Bobby DOES vest, he might get bought out – and probably justifiably so. ( Kind of like the Rangers not exercising their “mutual” option on Guerrero this season.)

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  14. b_rider says:

    I wonder whether this kind of thinking is ethical. I remember some time ago, Dave, that you criticized teams for holding back rookies who were ready to play in order to gain an extra year of team control on the basis that this was an unethical attempt to exploit the player. I agreed with you on that. So wouldn’t this be similar? I think that Abreu should play as long as he helps the team, and if his option vests, well, the Angels agreed to those terms when they signed the contract in the first place. Using any shenanigans (covert or not) to get out of a fair deal to which the team agreed is wrong, and whether the union would be able to challenge is besides the point.

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    • erich says:

      this has nothing to do with ethics. the option year is not guaranteed. by setting an AB threshold, both parties implicitly acknowledged that health and/or effectiveness would allow/prevent abreu from ultimately reaching that number. .286 wOBA vs LHP last year is not “helping the team” and, as such, it’s completely reasonable to sit him in those spots and, further, to explore better DH options during the offseason.

      having said that, if abreu is effective next year, he’ll reach that AB number and his option year will be a bargain. it’s not personal. just business.

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    • MTUCache says:

      This definitely doesn’t have to get under-handed or personal for either party… look at the Tigers/Magglio in 2009. There was a TON of discussion about how Leyland should go about shaving ABs off his total in 2009 so they wouldn’t owe him the $18M in 2010 and $15M in 2011.

      They ended up paying him the $18M last year to avoid the $3M buyout, and then were able to release him for 2011 after his extended injury time last year… he happily re-signed for a “fair” contract of $10M for one year and both parties are very excited about the deal.

      There have been very few Tigers fans who have been upset about either party for this. (Of course, they were much more concerned with Bonderman’s, Inge’s, and Willis’ contract at the time. :p )

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  15. gonfalon says:

    As a Pirates fan, I’d rather see the Angels trade for “catcher” Ryan Doumit. He’s just about worthless with the glove these days, but could give the Angels help at C and in the OF, in addition to DH’ing. And based on how badly Reagins got fleeced in the Vernon Wells trade, I’d expect the Pirates to receive a boatload of talent in return.

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    • chuckb says:

      Don’t get your hopes up. If Scioscia wasn’t willing to put Napoli behind the dish, he’s not going to put Doumit back there.

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  16. MrKnowNothing says:

    The Angels just agreed to pay Wells a hundred bajillion dollars, I don’t think they give a crap about saving money these days.

    I appreciate Dave’s sentiment, but I think they’d be better off just taking a million dollars and burning it – at least that’s only a one year commitment.

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  17. ken lichtig says:

    Abreu LF

    Wells RF

    Hunter CF

    Vlad Guerrero DH

    This a moot point as the Angels do not re-sign former players.

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  18. marshen says:

    Unless Guerrero can now bat lead off, run the bases with the best of them, and play gold gloves quality third base, there is no way he is going to be an Angel in 2011. The DH spot is the very very least of the Angels” worries going into the season. Thanks for the suggestion anyway Mr. Cameron.

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  19. dalerbon says:

    How can anyone support Bourjos, the guy hit .204, and if you actually watched him, he does not look like a hitter. We’ve had enough of this Brandon Wood mentality, sign Vlad and play Abreau in the field.

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    • Guy says:

      Guess his .384 wOBA at AAA was a fluke.

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    • AA says:

      “Look” like a hitter? I guess that absolutely sick cut he takes that gives him surprising pop for his size means nothing. Not to mention that he was worth nearly 2 wins in just 51 games because of his glove. Bourjos’ bat could never come around and he can still be a starting CFer for most teams. Not to mention his BABIP more than 100 points lower than his career MiLB average. Nor the fact that he is a speed and defense guy who put up a .177 ISO.

      Nah, he sucks {sarcastic}

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  20. Ben says:

    Bobby abreu is far from a washed up mediocre DH. His numbers last year were solid aside from the drop in average. If you look at the numbers, it’s pretty simple. Bobby had terrible luck last year. His BABIP fell nearly 50 points from his career average which has been remarkably consistent. His power rebounded nicely from a slow start in 2009 proving he is not washed up, plus the speed is still there. you can pencil him in for 20+ stolen bases and around 20 home runs. I expect to see his average rebound in 2011. His runs and rbis could certainly rebound along with that, depending on how the rest of the angels lineup produces.

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    • AA says:

      The reason Abreu lost RBIs is because he was hitting first or second far more often and didn’t have Chone Figgins getting on base 40% of the time in front of him. A key example of why even Branch Rickey knew RBI is a terrible statistic.

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  21. hk says:

    Either Mike Napoli or Juan Rivera would have served as a great RH hitting DH platoon partner for Abreu.

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