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Carlos Guillen Is Coming Back

Pretty much the essence of Carlos Guillen
Pretty much the essence of Carlos Guillen

This news first broke some time ago. You'll forgive me for not immediately jumping to my blogging battle station. I saw it, I thought about it, and I decided I didn't need to hurry to get something up because Carlos Guillen traffic isn't going to blow up the website. I used that time to do something I deemed more important, which turned out to be making lemonade from concentrate. I haven't yet tried any of the lemonade. Maybe after this post!

At last week's media luncheon, Jack Zduriencik said that the Mariners weren't necessarily done for the offseason, but that any subsequent additions would probably be small chips. There was expressed interest in finding some kind of veteran bat who could lend the group of position players some experience. Zduriencik might have known then that he'd be signing Carlos Guillen.

Maybe he didn't. But he's now signed Carlos Guillen, to a minor league contract with a spring training invite. It's not the most surprising of transactions, given that we heard reports connecting Guillen and the Mariners back in early December. Those of you wondering who's going to be this year's Adam Kennedy? Carlos Guillen is the new favorite to be this year's Adam Kennedy.

If he makes the team. That's not guaranteed. It's never guaranteed. Even Ichiro isn't guaranteed to make the team. Think about it. Guaranteed. Carlos Guillen has much lower chances of making the team than Ichiro does, but Ichiro doesn't have a 100% chance of making the team. It's kind of hard to tell where Guillen could fit. The team obviously signed him because they have some possible fit in mind, but how versatile is Guillen, really, after all of his injuries? There's easy space if the Mariners go with a six-man bullpen, but will the Mariners go with a six-man bullpen? And on and on. Maybe Guillen makes the team. Maybe he doesn't, immediately. Maybe he doesn't, ever.

If he does make the team, it's important to understand that you shouldn't expect too much. Guillen used to be a Mariner, as you recall. Then he became good. Between 2004-2008, he posted a 127 OPS+. He's posted a 95 OPS+ since in limited time, with his time being limited due to injuries. Carlos Guillen has had a lot of injuries. He's 36, now, so it's not like the injury-proneness is going to go away.

A healthy Guillen can provide some kind of defensive versatility and decent offense from both sides of the plate. A slightly less healthy Guillen is probably the normal Guillen these days. An unhealthy Guillen doesn't play.

Except for that one time! You knew you weren't getting out of this post without me going back to the old story about Carlos Guillen playing through tuberculosis. Before the 2001 season, Guillen was at his home in Venezuela. In spring training, he tested negative for tuberculosis according to a test that apparently has a fairly high error rate. Guillen started the season slow, and on May 19th he collided with Al Martin, with Martin ending up concussed.

Guillen progressively felt worse and worse. People figured he was suffering the after-effects of the collision. He didn't say anything to Lou Piniella. It's around now that I'm going to begin with the blockquotes. Ken Daley:

Every morning Carlos Guillen woke up and wondered how he was going to play a baseball game that night.

His head ached. His chest felt almost bruised, as if he had been taking hard jabs the night before. His cough had turned his throat as raw as sandpaper.

His sheets were damp from the fever he was running. And the bed, which had become his haven, was becoming harder and harder to leave.

Seattle P-I:

Teammates said he had been ill and had occasional nosebleeds, but he hadn't complained to manager Lou Piniella or team coaches.

Pitcher Jose Paniagua said Guillen had been sick for about three months and had told him he suspected the blood he was losing was from his lungs, and not his nose.


Piniella thought Guillen's performance was a tad lackadaisical during the team's trip to Texas last week, and asked coach Dave Myers to talk with the shortstop. Guillen did not offer illness as an excuse. He merely told Myers, "I'll pick it up."


Because tuberculosis is a contagious disease that spreads through the air like the common cold, the Mariners players were concerned about their own health and the health of their children.

Carlos Guillen was severely ill. He was severely ill, and getting iller, for months. He didn't say anything to the team, even when presented with an opportunity. And the team, for its part, somehow didn't notice. The Seattle Mariners weren't worried too much about their ill regular shortstop and were surprised when tests in late September revealed tuberculosis. Tuberculosis! That Guillen had been playing through for months!

Guillen put up an 87 OPS+ that year over 140 games. The year before, he had an 86 OPS+. His numbers in the second half were better than his numbers in the first half. He was batting .439 in September before he went to the hospital and found out he had tuberculosis.


The Carlos Guillen story is insane. I can't believe that happened. I can't believe that happened the same year the Mariners won 116 games. Guillen returned to play in the ALCS half a month later. Given all of the injuries Guillen has faced over his career, I'm sure there are a lot of people who think he's a wimp. Carlos Guillen isn't a wimp, to the point where he endangered his own life.

The Carlos Guillen tuberculosis story is old now. He doesn't have tuberculosis anymore. (We think.) What he has is an assortment of skills that is a lesser assortment of skills than he used to have. Maybe he still has enough to contribute. Maybe he doesn't. The Mariners will decide on that within a couple of months.