What to do with Carlos Guillen

Carlos Guillen is the last of the bad contracts handed out by Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski is the seasons following Detroit’s pennant-winning 2006 season. Over the past two years, the Tigers have parted ways with the likes of Gary Sheffield, Dontrelle Willis, and Nate Robertson, all were designated for assignment with time remaining on their deals. Jeremy Bonderman was allowed to play out his extension, but will not be pursued by the Tigers this winter.

Guillen’s contract was not viewed as a bad one when it was negotiated. Guillen was a focal point of the Tigers attack and was a steady defensive shortstop as of March of 2007, when he and the Tigers agreed on a four-year, $48 million extension. Guillen has played in 153 games for the Tigers in 2006, setting career-highs in runs scored, hits, doubles, stolen bases, walks, and OBP. In addition to that, he had belted 20 home runs and posted a .320/.400/.519 slash line and garnered a top-10 finish in the MVP voting. At still just 30 years old, it looked as if the Tigers were making a sound move in inking him for another four years.

We’ll explore where it all went wrong after the jump.


All started well enough in this deal, as Guillen turned in a very impressive 2007 season. He played in 151 games and posted a career-high in both homers (21) and RBI (102) while maintaining an OPS north of .850. Unfortunately, as the 2007 season wore on, the Tigers realized that they could no longer get by with Guillen’s deteriorating range at shortstop. After back-t-back season of a UZR/150 marking him as slightly better than average defensively, 2007 saw Guillen’s mark drop all the way to a negative 14.6. As the season drew near it’s end in 2007, the Tigers moved Guillen to first base, signaling the end of his time as a shortstop.

Since that time, Guillen has spent a whole bunch of time on the disabled list. When he has been healthy, he’s spent significant amounts of time playing all over the diamond, appearing as the starter at first base, third base, left field, and this season at second base. He hasn’t played any of those positions particularly well and the injuries he has sustained over the past three seasons have left him a shell of the hitter he once was.

Over the past three years, Guillen has averaged just 87 games played per season, including a low of 68 in 2010. In that time, he has seen his production drop as often as the fly balls he couldn’t quite get to as an outfielder. Guillen’s OBP, SLG, and OPS have all dropped in each of the past three seasons. After a 5.8 WAR (fangraphs) season before his new contract in 2006 , Guillen’s WAR has fallen to 3.1 in ’07, 1.9 in ’08, 0.1 in ’09 and 0.5 in 2010. He has essentially become a very highly-paid replacement level player over the past two seasons. There is no reason, thanks to his advancing age and lack of a position, to think that that trend will do anything but continue to decline as well.

Dombrowski has been taken to task for many of the “unnecessary” contracts he has handed out since 2006, but Guillen’s really wasn’t all that bad. It hasn’t turned out well at all, but the idea was sound at the time. Now that the hefty contracts of the other former Tigers have expired, the spotlight will turn to Guillen and the question will become how long before he, like Sheffield, Willis, and Robertson before him, is cast aside as the Tigers push to rebuild a contending club. A club that now no longer has room for an aging, under-performing, and very well-paid veteran bat without a position.

The Tigers plan to push hard for free agent hitter this winter. Names like Adam Dunn, Victor Martinez, Carl Crawford, and even Jayson Werth have been tossed around by pundits and fans alike. Guillen’s absence this past year gave an opportunity to Will Rhymes to show what he could do in the big leagues and gave Scott Sizemore a second shot at garnering at bats at second base. For reference, Rhymes posted a 0.9 WAR this season in only 54 games played.

While you would certainly like to have a healthy and productive Guillen in your lineup, even if his defense is suspect, there’s just no reason to think that Guillen will ever be a healthy and productive player again. The $13 million he is owed for next season will be paid regardless of whether or not he is a member of the team, but if it comes down to finding a roster spot for Guillen or another player, don’t you have to give that spot to the player with a greater chance for success? I can’t see any way that player would be Guillen.

As the Tigers plan their roster for 2011, they would do well to cut ties with the veteran switch hitter and use his roster spot to create at bats for another player.

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  • Bob

    I would make Guillen the full time DH until such a time that he fails in that position at which time you thank him for his service and show him the door. You have to pay him anyway, so see if he can earn some of it. I wouldn’t put him on the field defensively at all unless an emergency situation develops. On the other hand, I really wouldn’t have a problem with the Tigers releasing him before the season. The $13 million isn’t coming out of my pocket, so what do I care?

  • Chris Hannum

    To be fair to Guillen, his defense at first, second, third and the outfield corners hasn’t been that bad. And a .750 OPS in those positions is closer to average than replacement level. At second, it’s above average. Still, there are a number of younger guys who could give the Tigers the same production, particularly true if Guillen would be a pure DH.

    • http://motorcitybengals.com John Parent

      Guillen’s UZR/150 2008-2010 is as follows
      1B- 2008, 24 g -21.9
      2B- 2010, 47 g -4.3
      3B- 2008, 89 g -8.3
      LF- 2009, 42 g -14.3

      I left out a couple seasons where he played 2 games here or 4 games there, but I think you get the point. I know UZR/150 isn’t the be-all, end-all, but it’s the metric I feel most comfortable with. I also get that these are small sample sizes, but isn’t that part of the problem with Guillen? That he can’t stay on the field long enough for the samples to be larger?

  • http://sidelionreport.com/ Zac Snyder

    I say go about your business without Carlos Guillen in mind and consider anything you get out of him a bonus. I don’t see the Tigers straight up cutting Guillen because they are on the hook for the dough anyway and with Guillen there is always an excuse to put him on the DL if they feel they need the roster spot. I’m not sure if the Tigers have any ability to recoup some money through insurance but that may be another option to mitigate the negatives considering Guillen won’t be ready for the start of the season.

    • http://motorcitybengals.com John Parent

      So if you’re DD and you want to sign two bats for the winter. Let’s say you nab a VMart to C and DH and you still want Dunn or Maggs as well. You only have so many available roster spots here. Do you then cut Guillen and try to sign someone else or do you just say, “well, my roster is full, sorry”, and move on with Guillen taking up a valuable space? I’m not talking about the money, obviously he’ll cash that check regardless, but the roster spot is more valuable than the paycheck when dealing with building a roster in this instance.

      • http://sidelionreport.com/ Zac Snyder

        I think they can creatively use the DL to their advantage. How often is the disabled list clear of players? Not often, there is your added roster spot.

        With Guillen being injury prone you either straight up cut him or you have to make a decision to basically field a 26-man roster or 24-man roster.

        • http://motorcitybengals.com John Parent

          To clarify, I’m speaking not of the 25-man roster but the 40-man. Do you cut ties with Guillen or keep him and waive a younger player instead, knowing that that player may well be claimed by another club? It’s not unlike the situation with Larish last year, the 40-man is already past full with the 60-day DLers coming back onto the roster. Miner, Seay, and Zumaya are all arb. eligible so they saty on the roster until released or non-tendered. Bondo, Maggs, and Damon create openings, but those are chewed up by the three pitchers. So you have to DFA Frazier, St-Pierre, maybe Clete Thomas to create room to sign anyone to a ML contract. I know those aren’t exciting names, but if your choice is keeping Guillen or keeping a Jay Sborz, for example, which would you choose?

          • http://sidelionreport.com/ Zac Snyder

            My guess is that Seay is non-tendered, I personally would non-tender Miner, and I’m OK DFA-ing Frazier and St. Pierre. If it gets down to a discussion about a guy like Sborz then that is one thing but I don’t know that it will.

  • Chris

    If Seay is healthy,he’s worth something. Miner isn’t. Frazier isn’t. St. Pierre isn’t. I know that you need AAAA-type talent down there in slots 26-40 so you get zero WAR instead of negative WAR when you need a fill-in, but we’ve got that in abundance.