The eighth in a non-alphabetical and irregularly updated series of review pieces for each of the players we predicted last winter. (All entries are linked in the left-hand sidebar, below the Rotoworld stuff and the interviews.)
LL/USSM Community: 456 AB's, .268/.324/.443 (n=117)
Actual Line: 593 AB's, .290/.353/.460
Closest Projection: DC_Mariner, .290/.347/.455
For once, a projection that came out comfortably below the reality, both in terms of playing time (health) and performance. The community wasn't real sure how Guillen would recover from his operation, and it was skeptical that he'd be able to put up real shiny numbers in a park that hurts right-handed power bats, but what we didn't know at the time is that Guillen likes to hit the other way, and that he does it rather often when he's playing at or near 100%. I suppose there are two things we can learn from this: (1) elbow surgery doesn't mean that much for a hitter, and (2) if you can hit in RFK, you can probably hit in Safeco. It's always nice when you can get something out of your mistakes.
The entire 2007 Jose Guillen experience cannot be considered anything but a total success for all parties involved. The Mariners dug for a bargain and wound up with a great value in right field, paying only $5.5m for an everyday 116 OPS+ who seemed to be a positive influence off the field. The fans got to root for a quality FA signing with both talent and personality instead of getting another boring retreat crammed down their throats. And Guillen was able to produce for a full year without any negative incidents, thereby getting his market value back up in time to land a bigger deal that lets him stay put in one place for three or four seasons. Yeah, the whole steroid thing is probably going to hurt him, but that only came out recently, and as far as everything else leading up to that point is concerned, I don't think it could've gone much better for anyone.
As much as most of us came to like Guillen this year, it took a little while, I think, before we really warmed up to him. He didn't get off to the best start at the plate, and an ankle problem was taking a visible toll on his range in the field. Through June 22nd Guillen was hitting only .255 with nine home runs, and while he wasn't a black hole, he was having trouble against righties, and we began to wonder if that was all there was.
It wasn't. For the next two months, Guillen flipped out, batting .344 with a .949 OPS and 41 RBI. Over those 52 games, he went o'fer on consecutive days just once, while collecting multiple hits on 22 separate occasions. As the Mariners made their unexpected charge towards the playoffs, Guillen was getting on base, hitting for average, and hitting for power, and while everything kind of dropped off pretty quickly for everyone come late August and early September, the thought of Jose Guillen became inextricably tied to the thought of the Mariners playing good baseball. He was always right in the thick of things, be it driving in a runner at the plate or animatedly congratulating someone else who had, and that, along with his persistent shit-eating grin, made him easy to like. Almost overnight, Jose Guillen became a fan favorite.
Good vibes were everywhere, and there was a point in August where it seemed like a Guillen extension with the Mariners was imminent. The team liked him, the players liked him, the fans liked him, and Guillen kept saying all the right things about wanting to stick around and actually being able to call a place home for once. Just when it felt like all Guillen had to do was sign his name on the line, though, the team started losing, and all the collective happiness disintegrated into thin air. The front office shifted its priorities and Guillen started speaking up a little more about the Eric Byrnes contract with Arizona. Suddenly the extension that we'd all been expecting to hear about for weeks started to look like it wasn't in the cards.
Now, a month and a half after the end of the season, it's clear that the front office no longer wants to give Guillen what he's looking for, and, having failed to negotiate an extension before Tuesday, Guillen's all set to hit the FA market yet again. Once he signs somewhere else, a compensatory first-round sandwich pick will be all the Mariners have left to show for the outfielder they thought they'd lock up through 2010 just a few months ago. It's never easy to lose players you like, and me, I found myself really pulling hard for the guy down the stretch. I'm going to miss Jose Guillen being a part of this ballclub.
But at the same time, it's important to remember that Jose Guillen isn't a superstar. He's replaceable. Once you account for Safeco, 2007 was probably as good as it's going to get for the guy offensively, and since he's not an asset in the field, you're talking about a corner guy who's comfortably above-average. Comfortably above-average corner guys shouldn't get $30m/3yr contracts for their age 32-34 seasons. I like Jose Guillen, but if that's what he wants - and that is what he wants - it isn't worth the commitment. Not at a position that's relatively easy to fill, and certainly not on a team that already has enough wasted money on the payroll. This is one of those times where we just have to look past our emotions and realize that the Mariners as a whole are in better position going forward without Jose Guillen than they would be with Guillen signed to a big extension.
I don't know what lies ahead for Guillen. For his sake, I hope it's big money in a city he enjoys with fans that appreciate what he brings to the table. It's weird the bonds that can form even when you only know a guy for six months, but my memories of Guillen's time spent in Seattle are indelibly positive, and he deserves to be able to settle down somewhere for three or four years. So thank you, Jose, for a good summer. I'm thankful for the production, I'm thankful for the energy, and I'm thankful for the endless supply of writing material concerning your violent rage that you did an admirable job of keeping below the surface on all but a few occasions. May you go on to greener pastures, and find yourself so affronted with the lack of an extension in Seattle that you hit as poorly against us in the future as you did against the Angels.