To a team with the best four-man rotation in fifteen years, should more or less importance be placed on outfield defense?
Arguments can be made either way. The 2011 Phillies will prevent a ton of runs based solely on the man on the mound, so maybe outfield defense is less important than it would be to say, the Nationals. But, on the other hand, shouldn’t a team that hangs its hat on run prevention supplement it with the best defense possible?
It is a tricky question, one that is only compounded by the fact that the Phillies have an incomplete but potentially potent offense.
Unless Ruben Amaro was bluffing all of the times he clearly stated that he would like to start Domonic Brown in Triple-A, the Phillies outfield projects as: Raul Ibanez in left, Shane Victorino in center, and a platoon of Ben Francisco and Ross Gload in right. Center is fine, the corners are as shaky as it gets.
Well, maybe as shaky as it gets.
Enter low-risk, high-reward right field option: Vladimir Guerrero.
The Case For and Against Vlad
He’ll break down in mid-August. He’ll miss a few balls in the outfield and will probably cost a run here or there on the bases. But boy, would Big Daddy Vladdy be dangerous in Citizens Bank Park.
From last Opening Day until the end of June, Guerrero hit .339/.380/.580 with 18 home runs and 14 doubles. He made the Angels look foolish for so easily letting him go.
Then, from July 1 until the end of the season, Guerrero hit .265/.310/.419 with 11 homers and 13 doubles. He looked like a declining 35-year-old.
That second half may scare you away, but keep in mind that even if a signed Guerrero would perform as badly as he did in the second half of 2010, that would still be right on par with what Ben Francisco or Ross Gload would give you.
Vlad’s second half was nearly identical to Ben Francisco’s 2010 season (and career numbers), and close to, if not better than, Ross Gload’s output in his two seasons as a semi-regular with Kansas City.
So, even in the doomsday scenario, Vlad would be equal offensively to the right field platoon the Phillies plan to employ. And realistically, he would not exclusively be Second Half Vlad.Offensively, you cannot make a logical argument against signing Vladimir Guerrero to a 1-year/$5 million deal with cheap incentives. He only made $5.5MM last year, and after the Rangers and Angels both announced this week that he is not in their plans, the market has shrunk significantly for the Impaler.
As a righthanded bat, Vlad would represent a fearsome number five hitter that could keep the Phillies offense explosive when he’s hot.
But offense is only one side of the ball.
Guerrero played a grand total of 18 games in the outfield last season. In the other 129, he was a designated hitter. He has not played the outfield regularly since 2008, and that was a lifetime of nicks and bruises ago.
As displayed in the 2010 World Series, Vlad cannot run or field much at all anymore. He is a defensive liability on par with Pat Burrell and Raul Ibanez. Maybe even worse than Ibanez. Probably not worse than Burrell.
But neither Ben Francisco nor Ross Gload are the second coming of Jayson Werth. Neither is a strong defensive outfielder. Neither has range. Francisco has a below average arm and Gload has three assists in 608 career outfield innings.
At least Guerrero has a cannon that still fires.
- Offensively, Guerrero is an upgrade.
- Defensively, Guerrero is bad, but not significantly worse than any other Phillies rightfielder not named Domonic Brown.
- Character-wise, Guerrero would not be a distraction the way a Manny Ramirez would.
- Financially, a one-year deal is absolutely viable. All it would require is the money the Phillies keep flirting with Chad Durbin over.
This seems like the kind of move Ruben Amaro would consider. Two years ago, we all took a “I’ll believe it when I see it” approach with Pedro Martinez, and that turned out to be a wise investment for the Phils.
Call me crazy, but when I saw how quickly the market shrunk for Vladimir Guerrero, I instantly saw a low-risk, high-reward situation for a General Manager who loves to take a chance.