If you're like me, during the offseason up to the release of Elijah Dukes you considered the middle infield to be one of the areas of greatest need on the 2010 roster. Other areas seemed more shored up than fixed (bullpen, catching, etc [though both of those have been welcome surprises]) but what to do about SS and 2B were real pickles. Belliard and Lopez were gone and not really missed. I personally had my heart set on Orlando Hudson. That didn't pan out and we had a prospect who could play SS but that all hinged on Christian Guzman making a position change.
Guzman gave us a few things not to like last year. His offense had taken a pretty steep dive from the last two years. If I remember right, his defense wasn't that great in the first place. Not that much range and at least once a week a pretty ridiculous fielding error. One can blame bunions all he wants but I figured a lot of it had to do with Bowden almost doubling your salary and thus draining your motivation.
There was a minor fuss about Guzman moving over to 2B though to be honest I don't remember any of it being attributed to the player. It may have just been an assumption that since other than a couple DH appearances, he has always played SS. Maybe Riggleman prematurely put his foot down just to show that the new manager is boss. Maybe they put him on waivers just to remind him. Who knows? Once Kennedy signed, the fight came down to the overpaid underachiever or the prospect.
We know now how that ended up after Spring but does/did Guzman deserve any animosity for his effort or results? In the offseason I felt like he should but here's a quick review what Guzman's given back. I'm first going to try to find some fault in his play this season. I'm actually not seeing a whole lot (the reader is invited to differ). He's almost always on base by contact and he probably shouldn't be stealing anymore (it's been 5 years since he's been caught less than 2 times less than he's stolen).
On to the good: well there's several things. His 150-some at bats are pretty small in comparison to the thousands of his career but a .345 average most of the way through may is pretty decent (116 ops+). He's on base enough to score more than 10% of the teams runs and has also batted in 8.4%. I think the most dramatic change from last year to this is his adjusted batting runs has gone from -15.2 to 2.8 which to me says he's not just scattering singles but his hitting when it matters more and I think those who are watching are seeing that too. So while Willingham gets to wear the wig every night, Guzman is going his part to keep the offense in the game.
I think the jury is still out on fielding. I don't give much weight to someone changing positions since at lower levels of the game, it happens all the time. When youre getting paid that much, it shouldn't be that far out of your comfort zone to face the plate from different grass. I won't go too far into his fielding stats but I interpret them as he is better at SS than 2B (duh) but is also better at RF than 2B. He's still making errors and Desmond obviously has superior range but Guz has also come up with some highlight reels himself.
None of this should be that shocking to anyone that's been watching and I started thinking that maybe this contract is a bargain in disguise. After all, this is MLB salaries we're talking about. 8 mil is chump change to a Lerner, right? I figured the best way to tell would be to compare Guzman's stats to some other SS's (I figured it best to call him a SS for this, apples to apples).
|Marco Scutaro||Red Sox||0.681||11.3||$5,500,000|
|Alex Gonzalez||Blue Jays||0.847||-9.1||$2,750,000|
|Alexei Ramirez||White Sox||0.622||14.5||$1,225,000|
Two things occurred to me when I finished mining this from fangraphs and usa today,:
1) Cabrera sure is a popular name for shortstops this year
2) WTF was Bowden thinking giving him 8 mil?! I hadn't realized til now that only Derek Jeter and Jose Reyes were making more at the position. Guzman is good but not New York City good. damn.
Ok, so my Guz lovefest is tempered but still, he's been a lot better than I though he would be this season. Some youngster came and took his job (rightly so) and he made some lemonade out of it. Well, what do you do with the guy now? I've heard many times that he's not cut out for the outfield and there's no way he should try to pry SS from Desmond's little fingers. I think that he'll be great trade bait in a couple months (at least much better than he was in the offseason) but here's my crazy suggestion: backup 1B. Think about it.....