The Blue Jays are taking a chance on Vladimir Guerrero, but that's no guarantee the former MVP will ever pull on a Toronto uniform.
That was the message from Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who tried to downplay signing Guerrero to a minor league contract Thursday.
"This isn't someone right now that we're prepared to say is going to be up in Toronto," Anthopoulos said on a conference call. "I have no idea how he's going to look, how he's going to perform, how he's going to play."
The 37-year-old Dominican, who will start an extended spring training program in Dunedin, Fla., hit .290 with 13 home runs and 63 RBIs in 145 games with the Baltimore Orioles last season.
If Guerrero eventually cracks Toronto's lineup, the six-foot-three, 235-pound designated hitter could bring some power to the Jays.
If he doesn't, Anthopoulos can walk away from what is essentially a low-risk signing worth a pro-rated US$1.3 million with no timeline for a callup, no out clauses, no guaranteed dollars.
"I don't think anybody can go into the signing and know what to expect other than why not take a shot? See if there's anything there if there's no downside," he said.
The deal is similiar to the one Toronto signed outfielder Scott Podsednik to last season. Podsednik played in the minors but was released by the Jays last May.
Guerrero was signed undrafted by the Montreal Expos in 1993. He's a nine-time all star who was named the American League's MVP with the Anaheim Angels in 2004.
In a 16-year major league career he has a .318 batting average with 477 doubles, 46 triples, and 1,496 runs batted in. Guerrero's 449 home runs ties him for 35th on the all-time list with Jeff Bagwell.
There had been talks between the Jays and Guerrero's agent during spring training, but Anthopoulos said the deal stalled then died when Guerrero changed agencies.
"There's no downside but it does give us options if things come up," said Anthopoulos. "And if not, we're not going to hold him back. If there's not room for him here, if there's not a spot for him here, either way he'll have an opportunity to go somewhere else."
Provided the Dominican slugger makes it out of training, his next step would be a stint with single-A Dunedin before either moving up to the Jays' affiliates in New Hampshire or Las Vegas.
The signing comes as star outfielder Jose Bautista and first baseman Adam Lind have both struggled in the young season, with Lind being dropped from the cleanup spot during the Jays' current road trip.
But Anthopoulos wasn't willing to speculate what Guerrero's addition would mean for Toronto's lineup. At this point, he isn't even sure what position Guerrero could play, or that he can play at all.
"We'll get to lay eyes on him," said Anthopoulos. "We'll see what kind of shape he is. We'll see how he moves. We'll take a look in the outfield, we'll take a look at DH. We'll just see what we have."