It's been nearly two months since the Texas Rangers and free agent designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero were first linked (albeit in a somewhat nebulous manner), and yet if you had slipped into a coma on November 14th and had just woken up yesterday without having yet seen the calendar, you'd never know that two months had elapsed solely from the media coverage of this rumor. Frankly, it's getting just a little bit silly. I'll show you what I mean.
As far as I can tell, here's what we've been fed by a wide-ranging assortment of media sources in the last 24 hours: (a) Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes initially reported that the Rangers had offered Guerrero a one-year, $7 million contract, after which (b) ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reported that Texas was "unlikely" to offer Guerrero more than $5 million, after which (c) MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reported that the Rangers' one-year contract offer had been confirmed (but not the actual value), after which (d) a club source indicated that the Rangers hadn't made an offer to Guerrero at all and, furthermore, hadn't made any progress in weeks. So, who are we supposed to believe?
I have a rather difficult time imagining that all of this smoke would be materializing at the same time without there being some sort of fire (or smoldering embers, at least), but conversely, I don't think you can discount the possibility that Guerrero's camp is intentionally feeding misinformation into the Dominican media grapevine with the (innocuous) goal of keeping his name on the tip of everybody's tongue. Not sure I'm quite as inclined to buy into the notion that this is all designed to artificially inflate his market; such a stratagem could certainly work in theory, but major league teams know how this game is played and are presumably pretty wise to such old tricks by now.
Two months ago, I wrote that signing Guerrero made some degree of sense, but only if he could be nabbed with a one-year deal worth around $3-4 million; this opinion was formulated on the basis of Guerrero being enormously talented with some offensive upside potential, which is all well and good, except that you also have to incorporate the risk factors (e.g. defensive uselessness, age and injury history, among other things) and adjust his expected value accordingly. I remain wholly unconvinced that Guerrero would be a smart buy at $7 million, but then again, I don't really expect him to pull that much down -- maybe, maybe, one year, $5 million with a second-year team option.
And, hey, perhaps that would work out splendidly for Texas, since adding Guerrero would free up ostensible everyday-designated-hitter-of-the-moment David Murphy and allow him to help out more liberally at the corner outfield spots ... but therein lies another dilemma. I'm going to wager that Guerrero would demand some sort of assurance of everyday playing time before coming to terms on any sort of deal, meaning that he would likely consume at least 550-600 plate appearances at designated hitter.
If you spell Josh Hamilton and/or Nelson Cruz with Murphy, who ends up being jettisoned to the bench: Guerrero, or one of the higher-upside Hamilton/Cruz? And see, there's a real-life example of one of the big problems with bringing Guerrero aboard -- he's somebody that's probably going to log near-everyday playing time, as well as somebody that you're going to feel totally compelled to protect via the DH spot, because he, much like Milton Bradley, is a fairly significant injury risk, and you don't want to take unnecessary risks with a key offensive piece whose salary comprises nearly one-tenth of your entire major league payroll.
One key difference? Defensively speaking, Bradley is adequate. Guerrero, on the other hand, is an abomination. No defense-embracing front office could possibly feel good about allowing Guerrero to play in the outfield unless the game had already deterioriated into a 10-run blowout, or unless he was cutting down riotous outfield spectators with a fungo bat ala Billy Martin and friends during 1974's infamous "10-Cent Beer Night."
Of course, let's not solely focus on the downside -- if Guerrero resumes hitting at a .370-plus wOBA clip, he'd be a fine acquisition, and if he were to approach the .400 wOBA threshold that he hovered right at or above for an entire decade, that would be a rather tremendous coup. Some people would submit that betting on Guerrero to return to that high-caliber form is a relatively safe bet, and I applaud those people for their indefatigable optimism. I don't completely buy into that mindset, but I do know that I'd like nothing better than to see all of this come together nicely and neatly and pay big dividends for Texas, and perhaps that's exactly what will happen very soon.
Soon, as in "right after we stop receiving four different accounts of one rumor in a single day." Exactly when that will take place is a whole 'nother topic for a whole 'nother day.
[3:15 p.m Update: Take this with a grain of salt, but a source close to former Nationals general manager Jim Bowden (of XM's "MLB Home Plate" radio station) indicates that the Rangers are currently finalizing a one-year contract with Guerrero, pending physical.]