Rangers' deal may be Vlad's best shot

Rangers' deal may be Vlad's best shot

ARLINGTON -- This much is known. The Rangers have serious interest in free agent outfielder Vladimir Guerrero.

There are those within the organization who have him as the Rangers' No. 1 target to be their right-handed-hitting designated hitter. There has been much dialogue between the Rangers and Guerrero's representatives over the past weeks, according to industry sources.

This is still a deal that is not yet done. It does appear to be in the serious stage, although the Rangers continue to show interest in right-handed-hitting free agent outfielders Xavier Nady, Jermaine Dye and Gary Sheffield. Left-handed-hitting designated hitter candidate Jim Thome is also on their list.

The Rangers have made an offer to Guerrero. One report suggested it was for one-year and $7 million, but the club is operating under strict financial parameters, and sources insisted it wasn't nearly that high. Guerrero is reportedly looking for at least a two-year deal.

The Rangers likely have about $5 million left to spend this winter and are looking for starting pitching as well. They also still have a need for a right-handed hitter who can play first base.

Guerrero, who does not play first base, had been a right fielder for most of his career until last season, when injuries limited him to just two starts in the field. The rest of the time was spent at designated hitter after undergoing offseason knee surgery. He also went on the disabled list twice, first for a torn chest muscle from April 18-May 25 and again for a strained left knee from July 10-Aug. 4.

He ended up playing in 100 games and hit a career-low .295 with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs in 383 at-bats. His .334 on-base percentage and .460 slugging percentage were also his lowest in 13 full seasons in the Majors. In fact, it was the first time since his rookie season in 1997 with the Expos that his slugging percentage dipped below. 500.

Right now, the Rangers appear to be the only club interested, as one source said their offer is the only one he's received. Two Major League executives outside Texas say they have heard not heard Guerrero's name associated with any other team.

National League teams are not expected to get involved. Guerrero once had the most powerful throwing arms in the game but most baseball executives believe his future is likely to be as a designated hitter.

He will not be the Angels' DH, as they have already signed Hideki Matsui for that role and both general manager Tony Reagins and manager Mike Scioscia made it clear that the Halos would not bring Guerrero back.

There are teams that could use help at designated hitter. The Tigers do not have a full-time designated hitter and instead plan to rotate Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera in that role. Guerrero might appeal to them on a low-risk one-year deal, but they already have a right-handed-heavy lineup.

The Orioles have Luke Scott, and the Blue Jays have Randy Ruiz. Presumably, Guerrero would be an upgrade for either if the price is right. The Royals pick from a group that includes Josh Fields, Alberto Callaspo and Billy Butler. They could also use more offense.

The Athletics were looking for a designated hitter but are re-signing Jack Cust and not interested in Guerrero. The Yankees, who don't worry too much about money, opted to sign off-injured Nick Johnson to be their designated hitter. The White Sox signed Andruw Jones early in the offseason to be their right-handed DH.

Then there is David Ortiz with the Red Sox, Pat Burrell with the Rays, Jason Kubel with the Twins and Travis Hafner with the Indians. Those teams are set at designated hitter. So are the Mariners with future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. Scratch them from the list of potential Guerrero suitors.

Right now, it appears that the Rangers are the most ardent pursuers of Guerrero and there is a lot of work being done trying to get a deal completed.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.