‘Vlad the Impaler’ will soon be making a trip north of the border.
News broke Thursday that Vladimir Guerrero, the 37-year-old Dominican slugger, had signed with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Guerrero, affectionately referred to in the baseball community as ‘Vladdy,’ entered the 2012 season as a free agent. He had a respectable year in 2011 for a player in the twilight of his career, playing 145 games for the Baltimore Orioles while registering 63 RBI and a .290 batting average. His speed and plate discipline may have diminished with age, but Guerrero can still be a strong contributor on a major league team.
However, Guerrero’s contract is also of the minor league variety, so after all is said and done, we may never actually see Guerrero don the deep blue of a Toronto jersey. After all, Guerrero’s body has clearly been exhausted after 15 years in the majors, so nothing is set in stone.
At first glance, this signing may not make too much sense. However, with the current state of the Jays, Guerrero is a near-perfect fit for the organization as a whole.
For those who haven’t been following the Blue Jays too closely, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion has been enjoying one of his most productive seasons ever. His OPS is above .900, and has already totaled one-half of his RBI count from last season, all in just over 30 games.
Edwin seems to thrive in a designated hitter role, as his work at third base last year was sub-par at best. However, Encarnacion can easily play first base. His fielding percentage was just a few points lower than Adam Lind‘s at first base in the 2011 season.
So, where does Guerrero fit in all of this? Well, in short, Lind can now see Guerrero’s shadow looming behind him.
The day before the news broke that Guerrero had signed with the Jays, Lind was moved to the eighth spot in the Blue Jays lineup. While he did respond with a deep home run in Oakland, he was placed in that spot for a reason.
Lind’s batting average is constantly hovering around, and usually below, the Mendoza line, with a staggeringly low on-base percentage of .283 on the season. And Lind’s power game has hit a serious bump in the road, as well, with a slugging percentage under .350 and only three home runs. While Lind has never been the most consistently reliable batter, these numbers are low, even for him.
If Lind’s production continues to plummet, and Encarnacion proves to be a consistent force, the stage is set for Guerrero’s return. Encarnacion can be moved out of the designated hitter role and over to first base, and Guerrero can start swinging the bat wildly like we’ve seen him do for so many years.
As a result, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos must have signed Guerrero with the possibility of sending Lind to the minors in mind. Even the little, seemingly trivial things seem to work in Vladdy’s favor; he spent his first eight years in the majors in Canada, with the Montreal Expos. And with the Expos, Guerrero played on artificial turf at Olympic Stadium, similar to the artificial surface of the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
Toronto may be getting a glimpse of Guerrero in a Blue Jays uniform sooner, rather than later.