He got his start in Montreal with the Expos and became a star there, and a fan favorite. Then he swung his bat with Anaheim, then the L.A. Angels, also with Texas and Baltimore during the next 16 years. Now Vladimir Guerrero is a free agent, having been released by the Toronto Blue Jays after reportedly issuing an ultimatum to promote him or cut him loose.
What happened here? Things looked good for a return to the major leagues of one of the game’s sweetest swingers. As recently as 2010, fans chose Guerrero, then with the Rangers, to be on the American League’s All-Star team.
Does adulation enter into any of this? After all, it’s no secret Jays’ general manager Alex Anthopoulos grew up in Montreal as an Expos fan. Did the 35-year-old want to capture lightning in a bottle as well as relive his youth by having Guerrero on his team?
It doesn’t seem plausible, otherwise Anthopoulos would have inserted Guerrero into the team as fast as possible instead of having him waste so much time in the minors. Vladdy did well there, hitting .314 with a triple, three doubles and four RBIs in eight games with the Las Vegas 51s.
What seems most likely is that this is simply a ploy by the 37-year-old to force the Jays’ hand and make them decide on promoting him to the big club. Now that he’s shown he is in game shape, Guerrero can take his bat to other clubs which might need a situational right-handed hitter for their bench, or a part-time DH/outfielder.
Guerrero obviously has his own reasons for pushing a decision. One of those reasons is financial: he has eight children by five different women, and he needs a job. However, his age and his utility work against him.
A month ago, things were far less certain for the Jays. Third baseman Brent Lawrie was serving a suspension for an altercation with an umpire, while second baseman Kelly Johnson was limping around as he suffered with a hamstring pull. Then Anthopoulos placed a call to the farm club to see if the available talent could make an impact.
As it turned out, the callups to the Jays have worked out well: both Jan “Swinginho” Gomes and David Cooper have shown they are worthy major-leaguers, and far younger and cheaper than Guerrero. As a result, Toronto didn’t have a spot on their club which couldn’t be filled by someone else. So it appears Vladdy got caught up in a numbers game which wasn’t on his side.
Right now the Jays are battling with the Angels, Red Sox and Tigers for one of two wild-card playoff spots in the American League. They could probably use Guerrero’s bat, but the Jays apparently decided that juggling the roster numbers to accommodate him didn’t make sense.