Jose Guillen's career has been one of many teams, many moods, and many different levels of play. As a result, Guillen holds this rare double: four teams have released him, while four other teams have traded for him. Fascinatingly, the return on a Jose Guillen trade has usually been far better than you'd think.
With Guillen's Giants headed to the playoffs, now seems like a perfect time to bask in the memories of Jose Guillen, and all the Topps Series Two baseball cards his career has created.
Like most players who succeed elsewhere, Jose Guillen began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, signing as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic back in 1992. The Pirates allowed Guillen to jump directly from A-ball to the majors, then seemed surprised when his performance failed to live up to their expectations. Finally, on July 23, 1999, the Pirates sent the 23-year-old Guillen and Jeff Sparks to Tampa Bay for catchers Humberto Cota and Joe Oliver.
The trade wasn't as one-sided as it should have been to punish Pittsburgh for trading a talented young outfielder for Joe Oliver and a younger version of Joe Oliver. Guillen never figured it out in Tampa Bay, hitting .255/.317/.394 over three seasons and earning his first release following the 2001 season.
His releases by Arizona, Colorado, and even Cincinnati quickly followed. But the Reds brought him back in 2003, and the hitter who'd posted a career line of .260/.305/.398 through age 26 had a mostrous age-27 season: .311/.359/.569. He also got traded in the process, amazingly enough, going to Oakland on July 30, 2003 for Jeff Bruksch, Aaron Harang and Joe Valentine.
Cincinnati won that deal, and won it big. Guillen hit just .265/.311/.459 for Oakland over the remainder of the 2003 season. Meanwhile, Harang posted full seasons as a starter with ERA+ marks of 112, 124 and 124 from 2005-2007, along with some success (and some injuries) in a tenure that has lasted to the present day.
The Athletics didn't even bring Guillen back in 2004, letting him sign with the division-rival Angels instead. Guillen's age-28 season was strong for Los Angeles of Anaheim: a .294/.352/.497 batting line. However, a late September outburst was the last straw for the Halos, who felt they were better off without him for the rest of the regular season and playoffs. Guillen was dealt to the Washington Nationals on November 19, 2004, with the Angels receiving Maicer Izturis and Juan Rivera in return.
Again, the team dealing Guillen did not regret doing so. Izturis has been a valuable utility infielder for the Angels, and Juan Rivera is a .277/.325/.462 hitter with the Angels over six seasons. Both contributed significantly to four postseason runs.
As for Guillen, he had one good season in Washington, one horrific one, then signed with Seattle for the 2007 season. With a good year for the Mariners, he earned a three-year, $36MM contract from the Kansas City Royals. Guillen proved instrumental in taking Kansas City from a 69-93 record in 2007 to a 75-87 record in 2008. I guess that was the plan.
Guillen then slumped badly through an injury-ravaged 2009, and while he recovered to post a decent-enough .255/.314/.429 in 106 games with the Royals in 2010, it was still a surprise when the Giants traded cash and a player to be named later for Guillen. But San Francisco needed offense, and Guillen does, at times, provide it.
Guillen's .279/.331/.393 line for the Giants down the stretch actually wasn't a disappointment by comparison. The primary right fielder for San Francisco this year, Nate Schierholtz, hit .246/.315/.371. Still, if you are betting in a futures market, grab whoever turns out to be the player to be named later. There's something almost mystical about getting traded for Jose Guillen.