Hello and welcome to the Detroit Tigers Trade Value Series. I will be looking back at trades throughout the Tigers history they either got a great value out of or little value. Dave Dombrowski made a lot of moves in his career as the General Manager of the Detroit Tigers. Carlos Guillen may be his best one.
Originally when I first heard of Carlos Guillen, it was in the famous Randy Johnson deal on July 31st, 1998. Guillen and Freddy Garcia were traded to Seattle as Johnson helped the Astros win the NL Central title, by going 10-1 down the stretch and an impressive August, striking out 61 in 46 innings pitched and holding batters to a .190 average. I remember that vividly because he did not have to pitch against the Tigers anymore.
So when the Tigers traded for Guillen on January 8th, 2004 for Ramon Santiago and minor leaguer Juan Gonzalez, it made sense. Detroit was looking for a shortstop that winter. Dombrowski just signed Fernando Vina to fill the void at second base. Ironically enough, the Tigers were interested in former Giants shortstop Rich Aurilia. Aurilia would sign with Seattle and that left Guillen to be expendable. Seattle Mariners GM Bill Bavasi would say this about the trade at the time.
“When we signed Carlos, it was with the understanding he was a starting shortstop in the major leagues,” Bavasi said. “It’s not like we signed Rich to run Carlos off.”
He had a point and other reasons played a role. For one, just like another former Tiger who wore the number 9, Damion Easley, Guillen had injury issues prior to coming to Detroit. Two, Aurilia was coming off a nice string of seasons, including his 2001 campaign in which he had 37 home runs and 201 hits. So Bavasi wanted the proven veteran, even if Aurilia may not been his first choice. The month before in December, Omar Vizquel failed his physical. Vizquel played for Seattle for five seasons before he was traded in 1993 and had a home in the Seattle area so a homecoming made sense.
The rebuilding Tigers seemly did not mind giving up Ramon Santiago after two seasons. He batted .225/.292/.284 in 2003. (He would rejoin the team in 2006) Meanwhile, Guillen raised his batting average for a 4th straight season and was coming off a 2.5 WAR season, even after the pelvis injury in 2003. The Tigers were trying to do all they good to erase the worst season in franchise history by any means necessary.
Carlos Guillen was instantly a hit for Detroit. Manager Alan Trammell watched on with pride as Guillen became the first Tigers All-Star at shortstop since, well, Trammell in 2004. These comments in the Detroit Free Press helped his cause as one of the fan favorites.
I like it here (in Detroit). I like this team a lot. I like my teammates and the city. This is where I want to be.” – Carlos Guillen in the Detroit Free Press (Gene Guidi, June 23, 2004)
From 2004-2008, Guillen batted .308, posted a WAR of 18. 4 and made the All-Star team two more times. His contribution to play any position the Tigers needed when injuries hit the team was valuable. Injuries would eventually catch up to him but he left us with one of the best moments of the 2010s.