ARLINGTON -- Rangers designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero is headed for free agency. The Rangers informed his agent, Diego Bentz, on Wednesday that the club would not pick up his option of $9 million for next season. Instead the Rangers have chosen to pay a $1 million buyout that makes Guerrero a free agent. General manager Jon Daniels revealed Wednesday that the original intent of the contract was not for the Rangers to pick up the option. Instead the $1 million buyout was put in last January at a time the Rangers were limited by financial constraints as a way to sweeten their offer. At the time, the agreement was the Rangers would not pick up the option.
Daniels said the Rangers would still like to re-sign Guerrero and he has an expressed an interest in returning to Texas. "I definitely see a scenario where Vlad can be back," Daniels said. "We haven't had a chance to talk about it but we will soon. But nothing is done yet." Guerrero hit .300 with 29 home runs and a club-leading 115 RBIs during the regular season. That included an on-base percentage of .345 and a slugging percentage of .496, and he was selected to his ninth All-Star Game. "He was huge for us this year, both on the field and in the clubhouse," Daniels said. "If you look at him, Michael Young and Elvis Andrus, they were three guys out there every day. There's real value in that." But his numbers slipped after the All-Star break and he struggled in the second half. He had a .364 on-base percentage and a .554 slugging percentage before the break and a .322 on-base percentage and a .426 slugging percentage after the break. During the playoffs, Guerrero batted .220 with no home runs and six RBIs over 15 games with a .271 slugging percentage. He was 1-for-14 in the World Series. "I don't want to necessarily single him out," Daniels said. "We almost got shut out three times. I'm not going to put it all on him." Guerrero is a Type A free agent so if he declines arbitration from the Rangers, the club would receive two draft picks if he signs somewhere else. But manager Ron Washington said he believes Guerrero will be back with the Rangers next season. "Vlad has expressed interest in coming back and Jon works magic in negotiations," Washington said. Guerrero is the first decision made by the Rangers this offseason. There will be many more. The Rangers are only just now getting started on the offseason after going all the way to the World Series before losing in five games. They have had some organizational meetings but more to come. They have not yet set a player payroll budget for the 2011 season but club president Nolan Ryan made it clear that it will be substantially more than what the Rangers spent in 2010. The Rangers were in the $65-70 million range this season but could approach $90 million or more in 2011 under the new ownership group that officially took over in August. "We're going to have the resources available to do things we haven't done in the past," Ryan said. "To say it's going to be a certain figure, I can't do that. The organization is committed to improving the ballclub but...we don't know what the free agent market is going to be like, who is available and what opportunities will be there for trades. All we can do is look at our options." The Rangers are still committed to re-signing pitcher Cliff Lee but know that it won't be easy. Lee will be a free agent at the beginning of next week and, as expected, there are reports surfacing that the Yankees are going to bid hard for his services. "It's hard for me to speak on that because I don't know where this will go," Ryan said. "It's probably going to play out for a long period of time and at a national level." Daniels said the Rangers don't necessarily need to sign a free-agent starting pitcher if they can't re-sign Lee. The market drops off significantly in talent after Lee. "I wouldn't use the word 'need,'" Daniels said. "If we can upgrade and get a guy who can help us win the division, get us to the World Series and win it all, we'll be open to it. But we're in a position with our pitching depth where we don't have a need just to bring a body in here."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.