Friday, February 4, 2011

The Vlad Conundrum

Ahh, reclamation projects.

Doesn't the prospect of a golden-aged slugger revitalizing his career in your team's colours make you feel all tingly aside?

Good, so I'm not the only one.

Let me start off by saying that Vladimir Guerrero, contrary to how the market for his services has emerged, is in no way a conventional reclamation project. The 2004 AL MVP and nine-time All-Star is coming off a characteristically fantastic year in which he posted a line of .300/29/115. His numbers we're inflated a tad, hitting in the offensive haven that is the Ballpark in Arlington, but it was a phenomenal campaign for the 36-year-old nonetheless.

Yet somehow, with Spring Training not a fortnight away, Vlad the Impaler finds himself unemployed.

Only in the crazy universe of Major League Baseball is a future Hall-of-Famer who can still play -- and at a reasonable price -- unable to find gainful employment while Jayson Werth makes $126 million over the next seven years. For the record, in his age-36 season, Werth will be making just under three times what Vlad's reported initial asking price was for the upcoming year.

I don't understand it. How can there not be one single, solitary suitor for Bad Vlad? MLB execs are trading for Vernon Wells -- under no threat of physical harm, to the best of my knowledge -- and his travesty of a contract, but Vlad's reported $8-million price tag is too much?

Yes, he's become a defensive liability; we established that in the playoffs. But the guy can swing it. And he will. In fact, I defy you to throw something Vlad won't swing at -- and drive to he gap.

So, defensive deficiencies aside, why have American League execs not come knocking on his door? According to MLB Trade Rumors, the only seriously interested team is the Orioles, who reportedly balked at his asking price of $8 million. They have since countered with an offer of $4.5 million.

That's it? No other teams could stand to benefit from a dangerous and totally capable DH?

The Blue Jays could.

As the lineup currently stands, Adam Lind is poised to assume 1B duties, with Edwin Encarnacion at DH. Should Lind falter at 1B, he would swap roles with EE. This is why Alex Anthopoulous -- baseball's preeminent wunderkind -- has decided to pass on Vlad. Lind getting at-bats is of paramount importance, and if he's unable to handle the job at first, he needs the DH spot in the lineup.

Essentially what's happening here is Anthopoulous is preemptively assuming that Lind and 1B won't jive. Fine, but what do you have to lose by signing Vlad?

Worst case scenario, 1B proves too much for Lind and he's back to the DH role with Edwin taking over at first, relegating Vlad to a lefties-only role. But doesn't it make sense, and I'm just spitballing here, to put Lind in left if he can't handle first, move Snider to right, and let Vlad take his hacks as an everyday DH? I can live with taking at-bats away from Juan Rivera.

From a fiscal perspective, the Blue Jays are working with found money. Signing Vlad will cost a fraction of what Wells was set to make this year, so why not go for it? Hell, even pay him his full quote, and tag on a club option for 2012 while you're at it. The potential upside is huge while the risk is negligible.

Don't get me wrong, I couldn't be happier with what Alex Anthopoulous has accomplished this offseason.

But what do you have to lose?

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