Impaling the Opposition: Why the Rays Should Sign Vladimir Guerrero

Vladimir Guerrero is a name that you're probably all familiar with by now. Vlad, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez form a trio of probable Hall of Fame sluggers. As of now it seems probable that Jim Thome ends up re-signing with the Twins (although apparently the Rangers are interested too) and we've already investigated how well Manny might fit with the Rays. Let's take a look at the last member of this trio, and perhaps the one who's the best fit for the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays.

Vlad's prowess as a hitter is well documented. Over the last decade and a half, Vlad has clobbered the ball to the tune of a .320/.383/.563 triple slash line with 436 homers, good for a .394 wOBA and a 142 wRC+. Last year, despite a career-worst BABIP of .292, Vlad put together another solid year while DH-ing for Texas, compiling 2.6 wins while putting up a .360 wOBA and 124 wRC+.

Vlad's offensive skill-set, high batting average and tons of power, would complement a Rays offense that derived much of its value from patient hitting and a high on-base percentage. Indeed, despite being 35 years old (as far as we know), Vlad put up the 2nd lowest strikeout rate of his career, showing that his ability to actually hit the ball is still very strong. Additionally given that Vlad has proven that he can DH, there's no concerns that he'll fall apart in the role a la Pat Burrell.

Furthermore, Vlad would provide a right-handed bat to balance the Rays' lefty-heavy lineup of bats. Vlad has always destroyed left-handed pitchers, and is the owner of a .412 wOBA since 2002 against them. Last year was no exception to this trend; in 151 PA, Vlad mashed lefties en route to a .401 wOBA and 152 wRC+.

Any mention of Vlad's 2010 season would be remiss, however, without mentioning his home park in Arlington. The Rangers ballpark is a notorious hitter-friendly park. Turning to StatCorner, we see that their ballpark is inflates right-handed hitters' offensive value by about 6%. Despite this, Vlad put up a .344 wOBA on the road (with a BABIP of just .275), showing that he can still put up good numbers outside of a "bandbox". Additionally, it has been observed that hitters generally perform much better in their home parks, so if Vlad's road true talent on the road is a .344 wOBA then his true talent as a hitter isn't necessarily also .344 wOBA.

Although Vlad's free-swinging ways will probably infuriate fans (Vlad has been in the top 3 in O-Swing% each of the last 5 years out of hitters with at least 400 PA, and has led the league the last 3 years in a row), his excellent contact skills will make up for this. Additionally, we know that Joe Maddon is a fan of Vlad. Vlad would be an excellent match for the Rays at this point, and assuming the Rays could get him for something like the price tag Texas did last year ($6.5 million), he'd be a great signing.

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