It’s the first of November, and how does your team shape up for 2014? Never too early to get overly excited, raise an eyebrow or, for some, to flat-out panic.
The Dodgers are in better shape than most heading into the off-season, or at least the oddsmakers who have made them next season’s early favorites think so. I mean, it’s not like they’re the Angels.
But it’s not as if General Manager Ned Colletti doesn’t have his work cut out. Third base is an unknown, there could be two spots open in the rotation, and the bullpen and bench will need their annual overhaul.
Then there is second base.
For the last two seasons it has been adeptly handled by Mark Ellis, who this year was a finalist for a Gold Glove. He was consistent and reliable on the field, great in the clubhouse and, if mismatched somewhat as a No. 2 hitter, batted .264 in his two years with the Dodgers.
And the Dodgers let him walk Thursday, exercising a $1-million buyout rather than picking up his $5.75 million option for 2014.
Which leaves the Dodgers with a starting second baseman in the form of … Alexander Guerrero.
Really? That’s the grand plan heading into the winter? To count on a Cuban defector who has never played an inning, not only in the majors, but in the minor leagues?
Apparently. If not Guerrero, then right now who would start at second? I’m thinking they’re not planning on Dee Gordon. At this rate by the time spring rolls around, he could be a catcher.
Right now, of course, is not the same as opening day on March 22 Down Under. Plenty can, and no doubt will, happen in the next few months. Yet right now, the plan appears to be that the Dodgers will open the season with Guerrero at second.
And that’s one risky move. From never having played major league baseball, to being counted on as an everyday second baseman on a team with championship aspirations.
The Dodgers’ scouting department deserves a certain benefit of the doubt here, considering how they hit on fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig. But at least Puig got in 262 plate appearances in the minors before injuries forced the Dodgers to call him up sooner than planned. And, for all his talent, it’s not as if Puig does not have his issues.
The Dodgers signed Guerrero, 26, to a four-year, $28-million deal last month. At that infamous end-of-the-season news conference, Colletti called Guerrero a big league player and said he would be in the majors “if not right away then very, very soon thereafter.”
What if it is a little later? What if he shows up and clearly is not quite ready? Can they really know? They’d best have a Plan B, and right now whatever it is, they’re holding it close.
Colletti indicated the Dodgers are still interested in bringing Ellis back, clearly at a greatly reduced wage and, presumably, role. But Ellis, 36, probably still has starting ambitions and is no lock to return.
That’s plenty of uncertainty, but then winter is so much fun.
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