Guillen signs one-year deal with Seattle
Outfielder could also serve as a designated hitter vs. lefties
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- For someone who has played for seven different teams in his Major League career, it might sound a bit peculiar to hear that Jose Guillen considers the American League West to be home.
But that sits just fine with the Seattle Mariners, who on Monday, the first day of the Winter Meetings, signed the 30-year-old outfielder to a one-year deal for a reported $5.5 million that includes a mutual option for the 2008 season.
After the Mariners' poor showing against their West Division brethren last season -- they went just 19-38 against the A's, Rangers and Angels -- Seattle jumped at the opportunity to add a power bat and corner outfielder to its lineup.
They think they have done just that -- and at a relative bargain, no less -- with the signing of Guillen, who is coming off major reconstruction surgery but, if healthy, could add pop to an offense that struggled mightily at times in 2006.
"We feel like this is a signing with some real upside," Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi said. "Our doctors have given him a very complete physical and we are very confident he's healthy. When Jose has been healthy in his career he's put up numbers. This was an opportunity for us to sign a top-quality right fielder and a productive middle-of-the-order hitter."
Guillen passed a physical on Sunday and agreed to terms with Seattle shortly thereafter.
Aside from the base $5.5 million contract, Guillen can add $3 million in incentives that are reported to be 120 games and 520 at-bats. The mutual option for 2008 is $9 million, though the team can buy Guillen out of his option year for $500,000 according to the Seattle Times.
All this for a player who hit just .216 and appeared in 69 games last season for Washington before having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last July by surgeon Dr. James Andrews.
"Dr. Andrews said he's never seen a recovery like that this quick before," said Guillen's agent, Adam Katz.
Guillen started his rehabilitation shortly after his surgery, and by October, was already taking batting practice. He told reporters on Monday that his elbow no longer bothers him, though he's not quite ready to give himself a clean bill of health.
"I'm not completely healthy but I've already been hitting and throwing," Guillen said. "I'm hearing from the doctor that I'll be ready in January. I'm not going to try and rush anything because it was a pretty serious injury. I'm just taking my time and trying to be ready by Spring Training."
Guillen will be the team's everyday right fielder, though he could certainly be an option as a right-handed designated hitter depending on what other roster moves are made this week and beyond. Eduardo Perez served as the team's DH option against lefties during the second half of last season, but Perez wasn't offered arbitration last Friday.
"He fits real well in our lineup among [Raul] Ibanez, [Richie] Sexson, [Adrian] Beltre," Seattle manager Mike Hargrove said. "Considering the production he has shown in his career, it's a significant acquisition for us. He plays the game with a lot of heart. He's not afraid to stick his nose in there."
Guillen is a career .272 hitter with 143 home runs. In addition to the Nationals, he has played for Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Arizona, Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Seattle will be his eighth team.
Guillen played part of the 2003 season in Oakland, hitting .265 with eight home runs in 45 games. Guillen then hit .294 with a career-best 27 home runs and 104 RBIs with the Angels in 2004.
"I've had great success in that division, I know the league and a bunch of guys," Guillen said. "One of my greatest seasons was playing in that division with the Angels. It's going to be a great rivalry this year."
But Guillen has made headlines for more than his prodigious swing in his Major League career.
In 2004, he was suspended by the Angels for the last two weeks of the regular season and the postseason for "inappropriate conduct" after publicly expressing his displeasure after manager Mike Scioscia removed him from a game.
Guillen was traded to the Nationals following that season. In 2005, he exchanged words with Scioscia during an Interleague game against the Angels and later called his former manager a "piece of garbage."
Hargrove said he has no concerns at all about how Guillen will fit in with the team, nor is he worried about the events of Guillen's past.
"I don't really have any reservations at all. I'm not concerned with it at all," Hargrove said. "Everyone has a past. I don't have a problem with that at all."
Guillen said Monday that he's put his issues with the Angels behind him and that his only focus is on helping the Mariners improve from their 78-84 record last season.
"I'm just going to go and play my game and move forward," Guillen said. "Whatever has happened in the past happened in the past. I just put it all behind me. I'm looking forward to bringing a championship to Seattle. Looking around at the players that we have, this is a pretty good team."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.