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Two Guys In Two Days

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So, okay, technically the moves aren't official yet, but both John Thomson and now Jose Guillen are all but signed on to be Mariners in 2007.

Guillen's getting a one-year deal that's likely only worth a few million dollars, and as a Type B free agent he won't cost the M's a draft pick. Like Thomson, he's another guy with far more potential to help the team than hurt it, since the commitment is small and the organizational depth allows for a simple replacement.

Of course, again, there's a reason Guillen's coming this cheap after turning down a huge extension in Washington earlier this year. That reason? He hasn't hit in a year and a half. After posting a big first half in 2005, he slumped down the stretch and never did a thing in 2006, struggling to stay on the field and sucking when he played. That sort of performance won't earn anyone a lucrative contract.

Still, Guillen's been a physical mess for as long as he's been struggling, and you have to figure that injuries have played a huge role in killing his productivity. In the second half of 2005 he had a fully torn labrum in his shoulder that caused him excruciating pain and prevented him from swinging well at breaking balls or pitches off the plate. Then in 2006 he began the year with a bum wrist and ended it with a torn elbow ligament that required Tommy-John Surgery. If Guillen were a pitcher, by now he'd be working in a supermarket. It's hard to swing a bat when pretty much all the necessary joints are busted.

Now (presumably) healthy again, Guillen should get back to his normal player profile - aggressive power hitter who rarely walks. He's an asset when he hits .280 and a problem when he hits .260, but prior to 2006 he'd put up three consecutive solid seasons, so the track record's there. And succeeding in Washington bodes well for his ability to play in pitcher's parks.

The problem is that Safeco is murder on right-handed power hitters, and adding Guillen to a lineup that already features Kenji Johjima, Jose Lopez and Adrian Beltre could leave the Mariners with at least four big problem spots in home games. However, Guillen seems to be something of a spray hitter, so he may be able to manage. A .750 OPS at home and an .810 OPS on the road would be fine with me, given the low cost.

Aside from the over-aggressiveness, Guillen comes with two other drawbacks - (1) he's still recovering from elbow surgery, so he won't have his great arm again for a while, and (2) he's a total hothead. The good news is that we shouldn't be relying on Guillen to be an everyday outfielder, and we managed to survive Carl Everett, so these may not pose any problems at all. Guillen's never going to make many friends, but in a low-pressure environment with a spineless manager, he'll probably be able to avoid a blow-up.

As long as he's both used and treated properly, Jose Guillen is a good short-term acquisition, a guy who can take Eduardo Perez's at bats and spell Ibanez and Snelling in the outfield. Ideally this puts to rest the rumors of a Gonzalez/Floyd signing and leaves the Mariners with enough room to frontload a Jason Schmidt contract so that it's less of an obstacle down the road. Just like Thomson, Guillen's not going to win us any championships, but as a cheap role player, it's hard not to like the idea. Small commitments that leave room to sign impact players (Schmidt, in this slightly suboptimal scenario) are the best way to go about building a competitive roster, and kudos to Bavasi for not getting swept up in all this middle-tier free agent craziness.