Guillen would've been eligible for free agency at season's end. He had said earlier this week that he didn't want negotiations to linger past Spring Training. As it turned out, both he and the Tigers avoided what could've been a potential distraction in their American League championship defense while keeping one of the league's best-hitting shortstops.
"I would like to finish my career here," Guillen said. "This is the best organization I've ever seen. I'm very happy with these guys. Four years ago, they lost 119 games. You see now, everybody watching the Tigers. I'm glad to be part of this team."
Guillen was one of the handful of veterans to join the Tigers after their 119-loss season of 2003, though he didn't do it by choice. In one of the better trades of Dombrowski's career, Detroit traded Ramon Santiago and a Minor Leaguer to Seattle for Guillen once the Mariners beat out the Tigers for free agent Rich Aurilia.
Guillen became an All-Star in 2004 and was the best all-around hitter last year in a Detroit lineup built for balance. He batted .320 with 19 home runs, 85 RBIs and career highs with 100 runs scored and 20 stolen bases. His .920 OPS was the highest of any Major League shortstop, better than well-known All-Stars such as Derek Jeter, Miguel Tejada, Jose Reyes and Michael Young.
Those numbers put Guillen in position to be one of the more coveted free agents on the market next winter, especially after Young agreed to a five-year contract. However, he said he wanted to remain a Tiger, and the two sides eventually were able to work out a deal in which Dombrowski said both sides had to give something.
"We're very pleased to get this done," Dombrowski said. "It's something both sides have worked hard to get done. There's been a lot of compromises on both sides, for Carlos to stay part of the organization and for us to get him to remain. So we're absolutely thrilled."
When negotiations began in December, the Tigers were offering a three-year contract, while Guillen wanted a five-year deal. Guillen eventually was willing to take a four-year contract. Once the Tigers received the go-ahead to do the same, according to agent Peter Greenberg, the negotiations came together quickly this week.
The idea of finishing by Opening Day proved a catalyst as well after talks were dormant early in camp. Greenberg and Guillen were hoping to finish by Sunday.
"We told the team that from the start," Greenberg said, "and most teams do not negotiate during the season, particularly winning teams. We did Carlos' last deal during the season, but that was when the team wasn't competitive [for a title] and Carlos was new to the team."
Greenberg was already scheduled to visit the Tigers this weekend, so he was able to complete the last parts of the deal in person on Thursday. While Guillen and Dombrowski were able to announce the deal Friday afternoon, Greenberg was able to return home and see his daughter Lauren for the first time in six weeks.
Guillen will make $12 million next year and $10 million in 2009 before salaries of $13 million in 2010 and 2011. He also receives a partial no-trade clause.
Part of the question over the contract length revolved around durability, not just overall but at shortstop. Guillen had played in more than 136 games in a season only once in his career before setting a career best with 153 games and 543 at-bats last season. He has had knee injuries in the past, including ACL surgery in 2004, and was limited to 87 games two years ago while recovering from it.
He plays one of the more physically demanding positions in the game, and speculation has centered on an eventual move to another position down the road. Nothing in the contract addresses that, but as negotiations went on, manager Jim Leyland went to Guillen and talked about it.
Leyland said he told Guillen that he would not play him at first base this year, other than as a fill-in if he pinch-ran for Sean Casey. He doesn't plan on moving him there later, either.
"By the time he plays first base," Leyland said, "I might be pulling the wagon. I'm not going to worry about that. That's too far ahead for me."
Asked if Guillen might play shortstop through the contract, Dombrowski said, "I don't know that answer. It wouldn't shock me, because Carlos has great instincts for the game. Sometimes if you lose a step, you make an adjustment in positioning. But we did ask Carlos."
Guillen pointed out that he has played second and third base on a regular basis in his career.
"We'll see," Guillen said. "It doesn't matter to me. I just want to be in the lineup every day."
The big part for Guillen wasn't the position, but the commitment. He's the fourth Tiger to agree to a multi-year contract since the end of the World Series. Gary Sheffield agreed a two-year deal to finalize his trade from the Yankees, then Brandon Inge and Jeremy Bonderman both agreed to four-year contracts over the winter.
"The thing that I like about it the most," Leyland said, "is that this organization is going to sign good players and great people, and he's one of those. He's a heckuva player, but he's a heckuva person. And that's important, I think.
"I'm tickled to death about it. He's happy. I'm real happy. I'm happier than he is."