Guzman heads for Japan, Reimold a comeback candidate

Joel Guzman led Orioles minor leagues in homers and RBIs last year at Double-A Bowie and he recently turned that solid 2010 season into a nice, new contract.

But he has to leave the country to get it.

Guzman signed a one-year deal with the Chunichi Dragons in Japan. He did not get an offer to join any major league team’s 40-man roster.

The Orioles let Guzman know they’d like him back, but they also seemed to expect that the minor league free agent would sign elsewhere.

“It was our best option to further Joel’s career,” Guzman’s agent, Josh Zeide, said of his signing with Chunichi. “He had a number of opportunities, but we felt like this was the best one. And he’ll be well compensated.”

Zeide would not reveal the amount of Guzman’s new deal, but did say it tops the majorlLeague minimum salary, so Guzman’s 2010 season at Bowie, when he batted .279-33-98 with an OPS of .963 did pay off.

“They showed interest and we would have loved for it to work out with the Orioles. But there is always the future,” Zeide said.

He added that Guzman is open to a return to the U.S. to play after the 2011 season.

Now, back to the Orioles.

I don’t think there is an O’s comeback player of the year award, but if there were, I think Nolan Reimold would be a candidate for that after the 2011 season.

I predict a major bounceback campaign for the 27-year-old outfielder, who I still see as the better player in left than Felix Pie.

Reimold hit .279-15-45 in 2009, but spent most of last year in Norfolk and hit only .207-3-14 in 39 big league games.Reimold had a sophomore slump and two main reasons may have been his lingering Achilles injury and some off-the-field distractions that he won’t comment on.

When I talked to Reimold at the end of this past season, he called his 2010 season “brutal.”

I can see Reimold returning to 2009 form, where he showed a power bat, tremendous hustle and better-than-some-think speed. He had a very good eye at the the plate and I see him as super motivated to show that last summer was a fluke.

Reimold would not be the first player to hit a wall during his second season.

He was the subject of trade rumors at the winter meetings, possibly going to Tampa in a deal for Jason Bartlett.

Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make. I think the O’s will be saying that about Reimold during the 2011 season.

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