A Look at Jose Guillen’s Short Time with the Pittsburgh Pirates

Mandatory Credit: Harry How /Allsport
Mandatory Credit: Harry How /Allsport /

The Pittsburgh Pirates had a very talented outfielder début with them in 1997.  He would only play with the team for a few seasons but was a memorable player.

In 1993, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed amateur International Free Agent outfielder Jose Guillen.  He was just 16 years of age when he signed, but he moved quickly through the minor league system.  Guillen slugged his way up the Pittsburgh Pirates farm and made his début at the beginning of the 1997 season.

Guillen was just 21 years of age when he made his major league début in a Bucco uniform.  However, he was the top prospect the Pittsburgh Pirates had in years and they desperately needed a player to energize the fanbase.  Overall, Guillen had a pretty solid rookie season.  He hit .267 and slugged 39 extra-base hits including 14 home runs.

Guillen came back in 1998 primed to break out and become the Pittsburgh Pirates next franchise player.  Instead, Guillen did not take a step forward, nor really did he take a step backward.  Guillen posted a very similar stat line, batting .267 and hitting another 14 home runs.  His OPS was exactly .712 for both seasons.

In 1998 he made one of the most iconic moments of his career and in Pittsburgh Pirates history.  The play came when Rockies infielder Neifi Perez hit a pitch off the right-field wall at Coors Field.  Guillen had a shot at the ball but ended up bobbling the ball against the wall.  This allowed Perez to stretch the double to a triple.  Guillen launched a rocket from the rightfield wall to third base to throw out Perez.  Some say it’s the greatest throws in baseball history.

Surprisingly that would be Guillen’s last full season as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.  He joined the Bucs for the start of the 1999 season and appeared in 87 games.  He hit .253 but saw his power completely fall off, hitting only three home runs.  Overall, Guillen saw his on-base percentage go up to .315 which was his highest as a Pirate, but his slugging went down to a low .340.

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Guillen was now in his third season as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates and did not seem like he was going to take that next step as an All-Star.  So the Bucs dealt Guillen, along with pitcher Jeff Sparks, to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in exchange for catchers Humberto Cota and Joe Oliver. Jose Guillen went on to play through the 2010 season when he retired.