Vladimir Guerrero could be an Oriole soon, if only because he has no choice.
Try to find another suitor.
The return of Guerrero to the Angels would force Bobby Abreu back into the outfield, defeating one purpose of the Vernon Wells trade — to improve the outfield defense.
The Rangers only can re-sign Guerrero if they trade Michael Young, something that club officials do not seem inclined to do and would find difficult to pull off.
The Blue Jays, if they add a designated hitter, would prefer one who can play the field, protecting them if Adam Lind flops defensively at first. Guerrero does not fit the profile, even though he played 18 games in the outfield last season.
So, barring the entrance of a surprise bidder, the Orioles are in a seemingly advantageous negotiating position.
They have offered Guerrero a one-year contract in the low $3 million range, according to a major league source. If Guerrero accepts, the Orioles will be delighted. If he doesn’t — and Guerrero was “not thrilled” with the proposal, the source said — that’s OK with them, too.
The Orioles do not necessarily need Guerrero — they can platoon Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold in left field and continue with Luke Scott as their DH. They’re already over budget, and their greater priority is a veteran starting pitcher, not that any of the remaining free agents are terribly attractive.
Still, Guerrero would fit, especially if he came at the Orioles’ price.
Scott would become the regular left fielder, weakening the team’s defense. Club officials, however, believe that Scott would be adequate in left, and the speedy Pie could serve as his late-inning replacement.
Consider the Orioles’ potential lineup:
Brian Roberts, S
Nick Markakis, L
Derrek Lee, R
Mark Reynolds, R
Adam Jones, R
Matt Wieters, S
J.J. Hardy, R
That group would be AL East worthy.
The downside is not insignificant — Roberts, Lee, Guerrero and Hardy are injury risks in one form or another, and could make for an expensive DL. Reynolds’ offensive issues could become even more pronounced against AL East pitching.
The signing of Guerrero, though, might create other possibilities. Perhaps the Orioles could move Scott and a young pitcher for a decent starter in spring training. Perhaps they could move Guerrero for an attractive young piece in July.
Most clubs do not worry about carrying too many good players — they figure out a way to make it all work.
It’s possible that the Jays will determine they need Guerrero’s offense after losing Wells.
It’s also possible that Angels owner Arte Moreno will overrule his baseball people and bring back Guerrero. A new suitor might also emerge, seeking to take advantage of a bargain.
Guerrero, 35, is not going to pull a Jermaine Dye and sit out if he fails to land the right offer. He has too much left to accomplish.
At the moment, the Orioles look like his best — and perhaps only — bet.