The Texas Rangers declined Vladimir Guerrero’s $9 million option on Wednesday, instead choosing to pay him a $1 million buyout. At face value, this might seem like a puzzling decision; after all, Guerrero is coming off a resurgent year where he provided a legitimate presence in the middle of the team’s order. In addition, $8 million (the difference between the option and the buyout) is not pricey for someone coming off a season where he hit .300 with 29 HR and 115 RBI. So, why did they decline?
The most likely explanation is that, despite his overall productive season, Guerrero declined noticeably in the second half, a decline that continued into the postseason. From April through June, Guerrero hit .339/.383/.580 with a home run every 15.7 at-bats – in other words, vintage Guerrero. However, from July through the end of the regular season, he hit a pedestrian .265/.310/.419 with a home run every 28.2 at-bats.
The decline continued into the postseason and, in fact, became even more pronounced. In 59 postseason at-bats, Guerrero hit .220/.242/.271 with three total extra-base hits. In other words, from the beginning of July through the end of the postseason, Guerrero produced the following line: .257/.299/.396 (for reference, Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno hit .256/.293/.382). He grounded into more double plays (14) than he hit home runs (11).
According to Fangraphs.com, Guerrero was worth approximately $10.3 million in 2010 overall. Thus, in order to be worth his option, he’d have to roughly duplicate his 2010 production. Given that he either provides no defense when at DH or well below average defense when in the field, his ability to earn his contract comes down to offense. Here's something to consider – since 2005, exactly one player age 36 or older has hit .300 with 25 home runs and 100 RBI. That player? Manny Ramirez in 2008, the season he split between the Red Sox and Dodgers. In other words? The Rangers are probably wise to not count on it from Guerrero.