Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vlad Working on Deal with Orioles

UPDATE (1/22/2011 at 4:50 p.m.):  SI's Jon Heyman reports that the Orioles and Vlad Guerrero haven't spoken in two weeks.  Perhaps a deal is further off than Bowden's report implied.

Original Post (1/22/2011 at 11:54 a.m.):  According to Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio, the Orioles are closing in on signing Vladmir Guerrero to "humbling" one year contract.  With Manny and Damon signing last night with the Rays, you had to figure this would happen soon.  Guerrero is the last of the name brand free agents still remaining on the market, and there are only so many chairs left remaining.  The Orioles and Angels seem like the last logical landing spots for the aging slugger, although neither of them are ideal situations. 

With Napoli and Rivera having been traded to the Blue Jays, the Angels may have an opening at their DH spot.  I stress the word "may" because that really depends on what they decide to do with CF Peter Bourjos.  If the Angels decide to leave Bourjos in CF and put newly acquired Vernon Wells in LF, this would allow them to shift the defensively challenged Bobby Abreu from LF to DH.  In this case, the Angels would not appear to have an opening for Vlad.  Now, if the Angels decided to bench the light hitting, defensively oriented Bourjos, they could install Wells in CF, while leaving Abreu in LF and Hunter in RF.  Then, there might be an opening for Vlad at DH.  The latter option seems rather remote considering the Angels recent focus on playing defensively oriented players at key positions. 

As for the Orioles, they already have a pretty solid hitter encumbering the DH slot in Luke Scott.  If the O's pull off the deal to bring in Vlad as their DH, they would likely have to either move Scott to another position, or make a follow-up trade.  Currently, the Orioles have the recently signed Derrek Lee holding down first base, so Scott won't be moved there.  In left field, the young, promising Felix Pie currently has the position.  Pie has been slightly below average both offensively and defensively in his two years with the Orioles, so the Scott could take over in left if they think he's up to the task defensively.  Still, I have trouble believing the Orioles would be willing to stunt the development of a 26 year old outfielder in favor of a 32 year old OF/DH type that's a year away from free agency.  Considering the Orioles attempts to trade Scott at both of last year's trading deadlines, it wouldn't surprise me to see them try to reopen discussions within the next couple of weeks.  The Orioles won't get a huge haul in return for Scott, but they should be able to get at least a B-/C+ prospect in return.

Based on Manny Ramirez's recent one year $2M contract with the Rays, I'm going to predict Vlad signs a comparable deal with the Orioles within the next five to seven days.  Guerrero, 35, used an incredibly strong first half to propel him to a .360 wOBA with 29 home runs, and 2.6 WAR in 2010.

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