Vladimir Guerrero agrees to deal with Blue Jays
By DAVE CAMPBELL
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Vladimir Guerrero has agreed to a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, a potential veteran boost for a lagging lineup.
The deal was announced Thursday by the Blue Jays before a four-game series at Minnesota. General manager Alex Anthopoulos, speaking on a conference call, cautioned there's no guarantee the 37-year-old will join the major league team. Guerrero will be sent to the team's extended spring training program in Dunedin, Fla., where the Blue Jays will assess his condition. If they like what they see, he'll play in some minor league games before he's added to the 25-man major league roster.
"I understand obviously it's big news because it's who Vladimir Guerrero is, a likely Hall of Famer and so on, but it's a minor league contract," Anthopoulos said. "There are no assurances."
Anthopoulos refused to place a timetable on any possible track to Toronto for Guerrero, a .318 hitter over 16 major league seasons with 449 home runs, tied for 35th on the career list.
"There's no point in even spending time on that, because I don't even know what we have," Anthopoulos said.
Guerrero batted .290 last year with 13 homers and 63 RBIs in 145 games and 562 at-bats for Baltimore, all as a designated hitter. Edwin Encarnacion has been the Blue Jays' primary DH this season, and with 10 home runs and 26 RBIs entering Thursday's game he's hardly their problem. Toronto's team batting average entering the series was .237, third-worst in the American League.
But if Guerrero's trademark uppercut, whole-body swing still has some pop left in it, there will surely be ways to provide at-bats for him. First baseman Adam Lind was recently dropped to eighth in the order, and Encarnacion can play there. Guerrero could give struggling slugger Jose Bautista more protection in the middle of the lineup, too.
"It's more about the potential of what Vladimir could offer. We haven't had discussions about turning over our roster. We haven't had discussions about making wholesale changes," manager John Farrell said. "But when a guy with his pedigree and his track record comes available and finally comes to an agreement with us, we'll give that every opportunity to see what it can produce for us."
As Anthopoulos said several times, "there's no such thing as a bad minor league signing."
Time will tell, then if the low-risk move yields a high reward.
"You never know if you can get lightning in a bottle," the GM said. He added: "I'd love to say Vladimir Guerrero is an elite top-10 major league hitter, but I'd be very surprised if we got an elite top-10 major league hitter on a minor league signing. If that was the case, it'd be a great signing, probably one of the greatest signings of all time."
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Updated May 10, 2012