The San Diego Padres don’t figure to be major players on the free agent market this winter. Working with very limited payroll and with a young core group of players, the Padres figure to add complimentary pieces only; in all likelihood, past-their-prime veterans who are looking to bounce back from down seasons.
One such player is Carlos Guillen. The now-former Detroit Tiger is well beyond his days as an all-star shortstop, but has shown the ability to play multiple defensive positions. Couple that with a switch-hitting bat and Guillen would seem a natural fit for many a National League club.
Now 36 and with a lengthy injury history, Guillen won’t get another shot to be an everyday player; his versatility will have to be his calling card going forward. Still, Guillen enters the offseason fully healthy for the first time in years, so there is an upside to bringing him to camp, at the very least.
Once upon a time, Guillen was a force in the heart of a very good Tigers lineup, but the 20-home run, 100-RBI seasons are long since behind him. What has been left, over the past three seasons, has been a player that can still produce, but must be handled with care.
As recently s 2008, the last time he played in as many as 82 games, Guillen posted a .379 OBP and his career mark of .355 is very good. He still has the ability to pull the ball with power, but he doesn’t offer much in the way of speed anymore. Defensively, Guillen has most recently played second base, but was an all-star shortstop and has also seen regular playing time at third base, first base, and left field.
The Padres figure to go into the 2012 season with their infield fairly set. Chase Headley, Jason Bartlett, and Orlando Hudson will be the regulars along with Anthony Rizzo or Jesus Guzman playing at first. Guzman, like Guillen, has a history of playing all over the diamond, but by all accounts, he is not to be trusted with the glove. Guillen, while he no longer possesses ideal range, is as steady as they come on balls he gets to. He could provide a much more reliable glove in a backup role than Guzman can offer.
On a team where only one infielder played at least 120 games last season, a veteran like Guillen could play a significant role.
He’s also likely to come a discounted price. Because of his extensive list of past injuries (calf, hamstrings, wrist, knee) over the past three years, not many clubs will be knocking on Guillen’s door. There’s a real opportunity to pick him up with a low-salary, one-year deal. And that’s the kind of move the Padres need to be looking to make this winter.
Worst-case scenario is that Guillen gets hurt again and the club wastes a small amount of money. Best case is that he stays healthy, provides veteran leadership (Guillen is known as a great clubhouse presence), and shows enough that he can be moved at the deadline to bring back a piece or two.