SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jesus Guzman wanted to be a Giant. Jose Alguacil, a Giants minor-league coach following him in the Venezuelan Winter League, was ready to sign him.
There was just one problem.
"No contract," Guzman said. "There was nothing for me to sign."
All Guzman wanted was an invitation to major-league camp. It's an opportunity the A's declined to provide him, even though he won the batting title in the Double-A Texas League the previous summer.
When Alguacil relayed Guzman's wishes, Giants vice president Bobby Evans agreed: The club would give him a locker at Scottsdale Stadium. But fax machines aren't always reliable in Venezuela.
So Alguacil ripped out a piece of notebook paper, wrote, "I agree to sign with the Giants," on it, and Guzman did the rest.
"In English and in Spanish, too," Guzman said with a laugh. "Hey, I'm glad to sign with this team. I don't want too much money. I just want the manager and the coaches to see how I play. If I have that, I don't worry."
Guzman is putting on a show for manager Bruce Bochy and his coaching staff this spring. The right-handed hitter was 1-for-4 with a double against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday and is hitting .394 this spring. His 29 total bases lead the team. He has two home runs and his eight doubles are twice as many as anyone else in camp.
It's not a surprising display, though. Guzman, 24, was named most valuable player in the Venezuelan
Guzman played third base for the Caracas Leones. Alguacil coached third base for their rival franchise, Magallanes.
Guzman didn't know Alguacil was getting the best scouting view in the stadium.
"I knew his bat would play in the major leagues," Alguacil said. "When I found out he hadn't signed, I asked him, 'What will it take?' "
Guzman still can't understand why the A's wouldn't make a similar offer.
"They said they didn't have a spot for me," Guzman said. "If they don't have a spot, they don't have a plan for me."
A's assistant general manager David Forst said Guzman didn't have an agent so he communicated through one of his scouts in Venezuela. Forst confirmed the club wouldn't give Guzman a big-league camp invitation because the organization already had a glut of utility infielders.
"He hadn't played much in Triple-A and our player development people weren't sure what position he'd ultimately play," said Forst, who wished Guzman well. "There's no doubt he can hit, but we already had other guys with similar defensive profiles and we couldn't justify bringing Jesus in."
Guzman admits his defensive profile is not the prettiest picture. He has been inconsistent at third base, and he is not a factor in the competition at second. So he added a seventh glove to his duffel bag. Monday morning, he, Alguacil and special assistant J.T. Snow walked to a back field and tackled footwork fundamentals at first base.
It's probably a long-term project, but if Guzman picks up the position quickly, there's an outside chance he could make the Opening Day roster.
"We're staying open-minded here," said Bochy, who likens Guzman's opposite-field power to former Colorado Rockies All-Star Vinny Castilla. "He's made a lot of noise in this camp."
Guzman knows he has a support network. Alguacil, a rising star in the Giants' coaching ranks, has been instrumental with helping Pablo Sandoval learn third base. And Alguacil offered tips to Guzman all winter, even as a chalk line kept them on either side of a rivalry.
Caracas and Magallanes are like "the Yankees and Red Sox of Venezuela," Guzman said. But you won't see Boston third base coach DeMarlo Hale giving advice to New York's Alex Rodriguez in between pitches.
"If I had a bad play, he told me what I did wrong," Guzman said. "I don't have bad hands. I know I have good hands. But my footwork? "... You know, I have to keep going.
"It's my first big-league camp, and I want to open eyes. That's the baseball player's job, you know?"
Contact Andrew Baggarly at firstname.lastname@example.org.