Guillen will make K.C. better in '08
December, 8, 2007
By signing Jose Guillen, the Royals made their second big free-agent splash in as many winters, acquiring one of the best hitters left on the market while reminding the world that they're not all that excited about Chris Lubanski. Aside from his injury-wrecked 2006, Guillen has hit 31, 27, 24 and 23 homers in his last four full seasons, and even the lowest figure (which came in Seattle last season, a tough home run park for righties) would have led the 2007 Royals by a comfortable margin. And while no one would ever call Guillen "patient," his 39 unintentional walks were more than any Royals hitter other than Mark Teahen, David DeJesus and Esteban German. He clearly makes the Royals, who finished second-to-last in the American League in runs scored in '07 and dead last in slugging percentage, a better team for 2008, at a price that will make him tradeable should the Royals come up with a better in-house alternative. Guillen's arrival in Kansas City with a three-year commitment -- probably a year longer than they should be going on a hitter already in his 30s and showing some small signs of slowing down -- will push Teahen over to left field, a better fit for him. DeJesus and Joey Gathright are now left with just one full-time job opportunity for them, in center field; DeJesus is in every way a better player, but the Royals' front office loves Gathright and they believe he turned a corner towards the end of last season. It also means that either Teahen is on his way out or Lubanski, a former first-round pick whom the Royals already chose not to protect in the Rule 5 draft, doesn't have a future with the organization. Lubanski is still just 22 years old and projects as at least a fringe-average bat in an outfield corner, with a good chance to be solid-average. Teahen, meanwhile, isn't as good as his breakout 2006 season indicates, and will start to get expensive through arbitration, so holding him for a half-year or a year and trading him when Lubanski is ready would be a better long-term strategy. The signing also makes the Mariners' refusal to offer salary arbitration to Guillen even more indefensible. If Guillen had three years on the table, or even two, he wasn't going to accept one year from the Mariners at a lower salary than the $12 million he'll receive from Kansas City in '08. But hey, why would the Mariners want an extra draft pick?