On the day before the 2007 Rule 5 draft, the Tigers traded Chris Shelton—the first pick in the 2003 major league Rule 5 draft—to the Rangers. In exchange, the Rangers sent the Tigers Triple-A center fielder Freddy Guzman.
The Big Leaguers
Shelton, whom the Tigers designated for assignment after signing lefthander Kenny Rogers, was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 33rd round of the 2001 draft. Shelton made his major league debut in 2004, and from 2004 to 2006 he hit .281/.340/.466 in 807 at-bats. But despite his success in the majors, the Tigers opted to keep veteran Sean Casey, who hit .296/.353/.393 as the Tigers’ starting first baseman in 2007. Shelton, meanwhile, hit .269/.381/.420 for Triple-A Toledo. Shelton is also a good defensive first baseman. In 2006, he ranked first in zone rating and third in range factor among first basemen.
Guzman, who turns 27 in January, signed with the Padres out of the Dominican Republic in 2001. Guzman ranked second in the Padres system in 2005, though that ranking was more of a byproduct of a weak farm system than an indication of Guzman’s true talent. Guzman hit .269/.348/.363 for Triple-A Oklahoma in 2007 with 56 steals in 70 attempts (an 80 percent success rate). Guzman’s best attributes are his speed, plate discipline and above-average center-field defense. He walked 62 times and struck out 88 times in 2007, and the year before he had 50 walks and 55 strikeouts. Guzman, a .365 career slugger in the minors, offers little power at the plate.
The Rangers made a low-risk move by picking up Shelton for a minimal cost. Given that Shelton spent all of 2007 in the minors and would have been blocked at first base in the majors by Carlos Guillen, the Tigers likely did not have much leverage to get a significant return on Shelton in a trade package. Shelton will be 28 next year and could become a league average first baseman—and perhaps even better—if given the opportunity to play regularly. Guzman could catch on with the Tigers as a defensive and pinch-running specialist, but Shelton’s upside with the Rangers—combined with his low cost—could potentially provide a far greater return.