When Dave Dombrowski is no longer the general manager of the Tigers, we will look back on some of the best moves of his career. The trades to acquire Miguel Cabrera and Doug Fister will roll off the tongue first, with several high profile free agent signings soon to follow. Eventually, the discussion will come around to a single question: what was Dombrowski's most underrated move? We do not yet know the answer, but an early leader in the clubhouse is the trade that brought Carlos Guillen to Detroit in 2004.
*Played for the Seattle Mariners from 1998 to 2003.
Carlos Alfonso Guillen was born on September 30th, 1975 in Maracay, Venezuela. He signed with the Houston Astros as an amateur free agent in 1992, but did not come stateside until the 1995 season, where he shined in the Gulf Coast Rookie League. After hitting .295/.350/.429 in 118 plate appearances, Guillen earned a place on Baseball America's top 100 prospect list heading into the 1996 season. Two years later, he was shipped to the Seattle Mariners as part of the blockbuster deal that sent Randy Johnson to Houston at the trade deadline.
Guillen made his big league debut with the Mariners after a September call-up, hitting .333/.381/.410 in 42 plate appearances. He missed most of the 2009 season after tearing his right ACL, but returned in 2000 to hit .257/.324/.396 in 328 plate appearances. He spent most of his time at third base that season, but moved to short when Alex Rodriguez signed with the Texas Rangers during the offseason.
The next three seasons would see Guillen, now the Mariners' everyday shortstop, steadily improve as he got more consistent playing time. His OPS+ improved from 87 in 2001 to 104 in 2003 while his wOBA increased from .307 to .333 in the same span. He put up 6.3 WAR in those three years, but the Mariners seemed to tire of his persistent injury troubles. He was traded to the Tigers in January 2004 for minor leaguer Juan Gonzalez (no, not that Juan Gonzalez) and infielder Ramon Santiago (yes, that Ramon Santiago).
The trade would turn out to be completely one-sided, as Guillen put up a sterling 5.4 WAR season in 2004. He hit .318/.379/.542 with 20 home runs and 97 RBI in 583 plate appearances, earning his first All-Star selection. He also hit a career high 10 triples and stole 12 bases while playing league average defense at shortstop. His WAR total ranked second among all shortstops, and likely would have surpassed leader Miguel Tejada had the two played an equal number of games.
Fortunately for the Tigers, that would not be Guillen's only breakout season. He dealt with injury problems for a healthy portion of the 2005 season, but returned with another monster year in 2006. Not only did he hit .320/.400/.519 with 19 home runs and 20 stolen bases for the eventual pennant winners, he played in 153 games. This would be the first of two consecutive seasons with 150 games played, the only two of his entire career. Guillen finished 10th in the MVP voting in 2006 after accumulating 6.0 WAR. He became one of just three Tigers shortstops to amass 6.0 WAR in a season, and his WAR totals from the 2004 and 2006 seasons both rank in the top 10 in Tiger shortstop history (Alan Trammell has five of them). He also became the 10th Tiger to hit for the cycle, doing so against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on August 1st.
Though he played well, Guillen did not make the All-Star team in 2006. He earned the nod in each of the next two seasons, however, hitting .292/.365/.474 in 1119 combined plate appearances in 2007 and 2008. He set career bests in power numbers in 2007, hitting 21 home runs -- including a walk-off home run at 3:30 A.M. against the New York Yankees -- and driving in 102 RBI. While his power numbers dipped in 2008, he stayed disciplined enough to enjoy a 12.3% walk rate, the highest single-season total of his career. Part of the decline may have been due to his positional change: Guillen moved back to third base for most of the 2008 season to make room for trade acquisition Edgar Renteria.
The positional shuffling continued when Guillen played 42 games in left field in 2009. A left shoulder problem also shelved him for nearly three months that year, limiting him to just 322 plate appearances. His .757 OPS and 97 OPS+ marked his first below average offensive season since joining the Tigers, though he was still able to contribute 11 home runs and 41 RBI. A move back to the infield -- this time to second base -- saw a slight uptick in production in 2010, but more knee problems limited him to just 275 plate appearances.
Guillen missed the first half of the 2011 season after having micofracture surgery on his left knee the previous September. He returned in mid-July but did not play well, hitting just .232/.265/.368 with three home runs and 13 RBI. Despite the poor numbers, Guillen once again endeared himself to the Tigers fanbase with a home run off Los Angeles Angels starter Jered Weaver in the sixth inning of a heated matchup. Guillen taunted Weaver while rounding the bases in defense of Magglio Ordonez, who had drawn Weaver's ire earlier in the game.
The blast was the second-to-last home run of Guillen's career, and proved to be the difference in a 3-2 Tigers victory. Less than two weeks later, Guillen found himself back on the disabled list with a wrist injury. He only played in 14 games during the Tigers' amazing stretch run that season, hitting for a lowly .496 OPS. He did not appear in the postseason and became a free agent after the season. Shortly after signing a minor league contract with the Seattle Mariners in 2012, he retired before Spring Training.