Jose Guillen will earn $12 million dollars next year. He's not a good baseball player: he can't hit anymore and he is probably one of the two or three worst outfielders in the American League. He's in the way. He makes life more complicated for the Royals, and frankly, the Royals don't need things to be any more difficult than they already are.
The Royals need to trade Jose Guillen. Everybody realizes this. The only problem is that there is no real trade market for a terrible and expensive ballplayer with injury history who also happens to have a horrible reputation in the industry (Dayton Moore everyone!).
I don't think we can overstate just how unappealing he is right now, which is why the Royals should simply release him and move on. I really have no sense of how likely this is. Yes, just two years ago Moore voluntarily brought Guillen in, and yes, his bad play is not a recent development. That being said, Moore has shown an ability to cut bait on a failed experiment (Tony Pena Jr., Gload) albeit in a tardy fashion before. It would not stun me if this happened, although it would not stun me if Guillen is the Opening Day starter in right-field either.
There is one way the Royals might be able to trade Guillen, and that is to use him to solve someone else's problem. Many have suggested a seemingly logical Guillen-Bradley trade with the Cubs in just this vein. Bradley's situation in Chicago is certainly toxic, however, he remains an actually good player and, despite a widespread assumption that his contract is a disaster, he's set to earn just $9 million in 2010 and $12 million in 2011. I think the Cubs will hear better offers than a Guillen swap.
The key for the Royals might be finding someone who should be as desperate as they are. I think they can do this by inquiring about overpaid players signed to long-term deals. Can the Royals turn Jose Guillen into someone else's salary dump? The key is to think less about the money and more about the player, if the Royals can turn Jose Guillen into a good player, they should at least consider the move. Granted, I think many of these proposed trades are insane. I'm probably shaming all of us by even giving them the light of day. However, I also think that there's a small bit of "hey, this isn't half bad, maybe there's something to this."
Insane Idea #1- Guillen for Vernon Wells. Wells has a no-trade clause and would probably hate the idea of coming to Kansas City. Nevertheless, the situation in Toronto has soured and he may not want to be a Blue Jay as the team (presumably) rebuilds. In exchange for the last year of Guillen's contract, the Royals would have to take on Wells' deal, which is downright onerous: $12.5 M in 2010, $23 M in 2011, $21 M in 2012, $21 M in 2013, $21 M in 2014. That's $98.5 million, though in effect only $86.5 million after the swap. The catch is that Wells might be a productive player for most of this deal. He had a anti-career year in 2009 and he needs to leave CF. If he does the latter, he'll regain alot of his overall value, which could coincide with a few bounceback years at the plate. Yea, from a pure WAR perspective he will not earn his salary, but if he's a $9 million dollar player earning $23 million, that's not the end of the world. Yea, 2012-2014 are gonna be pretty painful, but if the Royals are gonna try to compete in 2010, an outfield of DeJesus-Someone-Wells has the potential to be really good defensively, with two nice bats. I think the Jays would make this deal right now, so maybe the Royals get greedy and ask for some money back in the swap or even a favorable secondary exchange of prospects. (Wells also has an opt-out option after 2011, which seems unspeakably unlikely to occur, but I thought it was worth mentioning.)
- Insane Idea #2- Guillen for Barry Zito. A similar trade as above. Zito has $94 million left on a contract that runs through 2014, if an option for the final year vests. I'd be afraid of Zito returning to the American League, but his mini-comeback season in 2009 makes this trade one you'd at least pause to consider. If you assume the 2013 club option (which is tied to innings) doesn't vest and factor in the Guillen savings, then the Zito contract is equivalent to a four year, $64 million dollar deal. The Royals would head into Spring Training with a rotation of Greinke, Meche, Tejeda/Bannister/Davies/Hochevar #1, Tejeda/Bannister/Davies/Hochevar#2, and Zito. With Tejeda/Bannister/Davies/Hochevar#3 potentially a high-leverage bullpen arm and insurance policy. Zito was overrated as an A and is probably underrated now. Yea, his contract sucks, but it isn't your money.Tell me you're not doing a double take on this one? OK, maybe you aren't.
Insane Idea #3- Guillen for Carlos Silva. Silva is owed $23 million total for 2010-11, which becomes $25 million with a presumed buyout after 2011. Silva's contract is terrible, but he's also much worse than Zito or Wells. Less money, lesser player. However, when you factor in the savings of Guillen's salary, he's only really the next Kyle Farnsworth. I don't want Moore trading with Dr. Z anymore, but this isn't a completely unmerited trade for either side. Maybe Silva even gives you a 0.7 WAR season or something, it could happen.
- Insane Idea #4- Guillen for Aaron Rowand. Rowand has three years and $36 million remaining on a fat contract signed two years ago. I'm not sure the Giants view him as a problem, but with his annual salary set to increase, they could be interested in moving him to help their chances of keeping Tiny Tim around. Rowand, like Wells, may eventually need to leave centerfield, but he probably wouldn't be terrible there in 2010. A DDJ-Someone-Rowand outfield would be very strong defensively, which could help make up for Rowand's subpar bat. If you factor in the Guillen savings, this swap would leave the Royals paying Rowand $8 million a year.
- Insane Idea #5- Guillen for Gary Matthews Jr. Did you know that Gary Matthews Jr.'s regrettable contract now only has two years remaining? Matthews is owed $23 million total for 2010-11, which is barely anything compared to some of the guys we've seen. The GMJ contract has to go down as one of the worst of the decade, as he's given the Angels nothing from the very beginning. His offensive and defensive numbers are bad, but with regular playing time, I think he can be better. Not good, but vaguely ok. Of course, the Angels seem unlilkely to make this move, given management's long-standing problems with Guillen. When you're dreaming about a Gary Matthews Jr. trade and regretting these difficulties, you realize just what Dayton Moore has done to you.
- Insane Idea #6- Guillen for Alfie Soriano. Soriano, incredibly, still has $90 million left on his massive contract, thanks to an $18 million dollar annual salary that runs through 2014. I think I'd rather have Vernon Wells.
- Insane Idea #7- Guillen for Kosuke Fukudome. The time to make this deal was last winter, when Guillen may have still had some appeal and Fukudome's contract looked worse. Still, the Cubs would get out of the $26.5 million dollar obligation they have to Fukudome, in exchange for eating Guillen's $12 million. Fukudome's defense rated well in 2008, and was bad in 2009, so his overall value both seasons has been about the same. I wouldn't hesitate to make this deal, which also means the Cubs wouldn't do it. Then again, the Cubs have some massive contracts and (partially) selling off Fukudome could be appealing.
- Insane Idea #8- Guillen for Dice K. My original idea was to look at swapping out JD Drew's contract, but its really not that bad, and I think the Boston FO values Drew's game, even if the general public doesn't. Dice-K is a different story, and the Red Sox owe him $28 million over the next three seasons. Guillen would never see the light of day in a Red Sox uniform, but the Red Sox would save $16 million in the process. The question is, would you want Dice-K for three years/$16 million?
I think you get the idea I'm proposing here: the Royals use their own Guillen salary dump to take on a bigger salary problem of somebody else's making. The key is finding a player who currently has a contract that is now seen is a milestone in his current situation, but is, in reality, not that bad of a deal
I'd make the Guillen for Silva, Guillen for Fukudome, Guillen for GMJ, Guillen for Rowand moves right now. The Guillen for Zito and Guillen for Wells deals, probably the craziest (outside of the Soriano one, which I'm keeping in just to let you know I'm not out of my mind), would be tough to make but have some appeal. The money's pretty close, but I think I'd rather take on Zito than Wells. Dice-K is essentially a reprise of the Silva situation, though he still holds some promise.
There are sound arguments why doing a trade like this is a bad idea. Why compound a problem? Why take on more bad salary? The simplest thing to do would just be to release Guillen. Given the long-term contracts already given to Meche, Soria, & Greinke, the Royals don't really have any building blocks at the moment that need to be locked up with any urgency, save perhaps Billy Butler. Our attitude towards payroll should always be the same: we should only care insomuch as any contract has an ability to affect other moves or grant unjustified playing time. To different extents, all these bad contracts might do so, though I'm tempted to say something about how keeping Dayton Moore off the free agent market might not be a bad thing.
So what do you think?