"We always told him throughout the process that anytime he felt that he didn't want to be here, he had the ability to leave any time," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "Even though we don't have out clauses, we had a handshake agreement that any time he could indicate to us that if [he] wanted to go that [way], we would grant him his release."
Guerrero's path to the big leagues hit a road block in recent weeks with the performance of David Cooper. Toronto's first baseman is off to a hot start after being called up to the Majors, entering play Tuesday hitting .314 with two homers and six RBIs in 15 games.
Cooper's presence has kept Edwin Encarnacion in the designated-hitter role, which is where Guerrero would have played if he was promoted to the big league club. Guerrero also has the ability to play some left field, but with declining defensive skills, it's unlikely the Blue Jays would have wanted to give him anything more than a spot start at that position.
The Dominican Republic native has received some positive reports on his production at the plate in the Minor Leagues, but the club felt it still hadn't seen enough to justify a promotion to the next level.
"I told [Guerrero's agent, Bean Stringfellow], 'Look, if we have to make a decision right now, we're not prepared to call him up,'" Anthopoulos said. "So if he wants his release right now, we certainly would do it. If not, I said [assistant GM] Tony LaCava is going to be there [Tuesday], and for the next three or four games. If you'd like, we can just strictly go day to day, when he has obviously has the ability to control the process and he can go whenever he likes.
"But I said if the decision needs to be right now, we'll certainly grant him his release. ... From that standpoint, he played last night and he decided that that was going to be enough for him. He felt that he was certainly worthy of a call up. We're just not prepared to do that right now."
Guerrero made headlines in late May with a strong debut for Class A Dunedin after a stint playing extended spring games. He proceeded to post four homers and eight RBIs in his four games with Dunedin before moving up to Triple-A Las Vegas.
The 17-year veteran then struggled during his first few games in the Pacific Coast League, and received a slight setback after he was hit on the hand during a game on Saturday. He returned Monday night and proceeded to go 4-for-5 with a triple, to up his overall average to .314 in eight games.
Following Monday night's game, Guerrero informed Triple-A manager Marty Brown that he had played his last game for the 51s. He returned to California and said the Blue Jays needed to decide right away whether to promote or release him.
With no clear spot on the roster, Guerrero was released, but contrary to an online report early Tuesday morning, he has not retired. Anthopoulos also disputed a report that said Guerrero was unhappy with the way he had been dealt with, and that he had been lied to by the Blue Jays' organization about what his role would be.
Anthopoulos never had any direct communication with Guerrero, and instead always went through Stringfellow. The two have developed a strong working relationship over the past few years, as the agent also represents Jose Bautista, Francisco Cordero and Luis Perez.
"We stayed in communication, we never forced anything," Anthoplous said. "It was always to make sure everyone was on board with what we were doing.
"Even when [Guerrero] was in Florida, wanted to stay in Florida a little bit longer, no problem. We really worked to the schedule -- other than being called up here -- the way they wanted it set up. We never had any problems at all."
Guerrero spent last season in Baltimore, where he hit .290 with 13 home runs and 63 RBIs while posting a career low .733 OPS. Guerrero has amassed 449 home runs with a .318 average and 1,496 RBIs over his career.
Anthopoulos referred to him as a future Hall of Famer and felt there would still be opportunities for Guerrero somewhere in the American League. Just not in Toronto.
"He was getting better slowly," Anthopoulos said. "Timing was better, more hard-hit balls, but [our staff] didn't necessarily feel that he was all the way there yet. They said he was a great worker, a great teammate, played hard, ran ground balls out, did all those things, everything you want.
"Maybe just timing, felt like he just needed a few more at-bats. He didn't agree, and that's fine. But the dialogue with his agent and everything has been outstanding, completely amicable."