JOSE GUILLEN: A FRACTURED FAIRYTALE
[October 29th] -- Jose Guillen's tenure in Washington seemed all but finished when the Nationals removed his photo from the team's website banner. Though no one on either side has publicly suggested that Guillen is a "former" National, the mid-summer trade from Austin Kearns all but guaranteed his ouster from yet another major league team.
Or did it?
Guillen, who turned down Jim Bowden's 4 year/$40 million dollar contract offer this past spring, suffered through two significant injuries (one before the season, one after), that caused his "walk year" to be the worst of his career (.216-9-40). Come March, then, he's likely to be 1) healthy and 2) unemployed. Mr. Guillen, then, could be retained by the Nationals at a very, very low price, say a couple of million or so, and that's chump-change for a guy who is likely to hit .290-25-100. With Alfonso Soriano off to ply his wares at the MLB bazaar, the Nats are left with one starting oufielder (Kearns) to fill three positions. Ryan Church has shown that he has the talent to be a standout left-fielder, but can't play center. Nook Logan has shown that he has the talent to be a standout defensive center-fielder, but he just the latest flavor of Endy Chavez and Brandon Watson. Alex Escobar has shown that he has the talent to be a standout center fielder, but can't stay healthy. Jose Guillen, on the other hand, has the talent to play centerfield, but has only done so a handful of times in his major league career. Why not give it a try? He certainly has the range and speed to cover center, and no one doubts that canon-like arm of his. An outfield of Church, Guillen and Kearns could easily hit a collective .280-85-280.
Why not give it a try?
Because Guillen's past still hangs over the guy like storm cloud that just won't go away.
At every stop along the way, Guillen has 1) turned the town against him and 2) said that he loved playing there and wanted to stay. He loved Pittsburgh. He loved Tampa Bay (go figure). He loved Arizona. He loved Oakland. He reminds me of that song that rocked D.C. during Richard Nixon's first administration -- you know -- "If you can't be with the one you love, then love the one you're with."
His love, however, always came with a "but." I'd love to stay here .... "but..." He spent three years in Pittsburgh, showing those flashes of brilliance that seven major league teams have hoped he would bring their lineup. When he was traded to the Devil Rays, he moaned and groaned and said that the Pirates "dissed" him, adding that he couldn't believe that he was traded for "Joe Oliver and 'that catcher.'" He never mentioned that the team's all-star catcher, Jason Kendall, had just gone down with a fractured ankle, and that he was traded for two catchers to help replace him. It made perfect sense to everyone -- everyone but Jose Guillen that is.
After a week into his first spring training with Tampa Bay, Guillen "demanded" that the team tell him how they planned to use him. "I don't think I have a chance here," Guillen said. "It's like I'm in the middle of nowhere." G.M. Chuck LaMarr tired of his "me-me-me" attitude and released him at the end of the season.
He was quickly signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks and released four months into the season. "I love playing here and would like to stay" said Guillen. He then signed with the Rockies and remained with the organization for a total of five minor-league games. Reading that the team acquired outfielders Jay Payton and Gabe Kapler, he used his standard "I'd like to stay here but they they appreciate me" routine, demanding to know where he stood within the organization. He was immediately given his release.
Over the next season, he was signed by the Reds as a free-agent, then released before he ever played a game, signed again, played like an all-star, and then was traded to the Oakland Athletics for their pennant drive. After booting him during spring training, Jim Bowden re-signed him the next day. By May, Guillen, then the team's fourth outfielder, was loudly complaining that he wanted to be starting for the Reds, and that if he wasn't going to start, he wanted out of Cincinnati. Bowden would have none of it. "Before we signed Jose we had a conference call with Jose and his agent, Adam Katz," Reds general manager Jim Bowden said. "We told him that Adam Dunn was the left fielder, Austin Kearns was the right fielder and Ken Griffey Jr. was the center fielder. He would be the fourth outfielder. He agreed and said it was a good fit for him." Nope, said Guillen. "I was mislead. It's not a good situation for me. They should trade me." Bowden was happy to oblige.
He was released by the Athletics at the end of the year, and eventually signed with the Angels. We all know how that went. He said all the right things when he was traded to Washington, yet his true personality came out in one of his "I'm better than you think I am" stump speeches: "I'm not like what people are saying," he said. "If I'm producing and you sit me, though, we're going to have a little problem. It would be different if I was making a lot of mistakes, but I know what I'm doing. If you just let me do my stuff, I'll be fine."
As long as you do what I want you to do, then I'll be a good boy. But you'd better not cross me or else .....
Is it worth the risk to resign Jose Guillen? Is 30 more home runs and 100 more RBI's worth the chance that he's going to hit someone, call someone a name, turn teammate against teammate, and generally make it less fun to watch the Nationals play? I'd say yes if the Nationals had a chance to put together a team capable of winning 85 games -- what a great way to segway into the new stadium and the next chapter of D.C. baseball history. That would be a a possibility if the team uses the $15 million dollars that would have gone to Alfonso Soriano and signs two solid (though unspectacular) starting pitchers. John Patterson, Mr. 'X' and Mr. 'Y,' plus two others from the 'kiddie pool' (Beltran Perez, Shawn Hill, Mike O'Connor) or Jon Rauch, could place the team in a position to finish 2007 somewhere in the middle of the pack. If they don't sign starting pitching, however, it won't matter of Guillen or Nook Logan patrols center field at RFK.
If Juan Rivera and Macier Izturis hadn't turned into such quality players with the Angels, I wouldn't think twice about saying "seeya" to Guillen. I'd just hate to get nothing in return for them.