Apparently you can squash any hope that the Dodgers might be able to persuade Alex Guerrero to return to the minors this season.
The infielder has the Dodgers in a difficult spot, the organization agreeing to give the Cuban defector a wacky four-year, $28-million contract before last season that does not allow him to be optioned to the minors after his first season without his permission. The team’s only other options are to trade or cut him.
Guerrero was penciled in as their major-league second baseman last spring, and although they were happy enough with his bat, it immediately became clear that he wasn’t ready defensively. Instead, they opened the season with a platoon of Dee Gordon and Justin Turner at second, sending Guerrero to triple-A.
They won’t have that alternative this year, unless the team can persuade Guerrero to play nice. And in an interview with Jesse Sanchez at MLB.com, he made it pretty clear that’s not going to happen.
“The team does not know what they are going to do, but all I can control is keep working hard and they will get the final word,” Guerrero told Sanchez. “I don't want to go down. I'm not going down. I feel like I can get better here at this level and play every day. I think that's what every player wants. You want to be in the Major Leagues and play as much as you can.”
Though hardly unexpected, this is not good news for the Dodgers. They remain uncertain what position he can play. He was a shortstop in Cuba, struggled at second last year, played some third and even a little outfield. He’s expected to see action at second, third and outfield this spring.
If he’s unwilling to go down – and this is probably where I should mention his agent is Scott Boras, who has a habit of making final decisions for young clients – that could cost Darwin Barney a utility spot on the roster. Turner will be the primary utility man.
Guerrero spent most of last season at triple-A Albuquerque, hitting .329 with 15 homers, 49 RBI and a .364 on-base percentage (258 plate appearances). He was on the verge of being called up in May, hitting .376, before getting into that fight with teammate Miguel Olivo and having nearly half his ear bitten off; he hit .286 after returning.
He still has $21.5 million remaining on his contract, so that would be an expensive cut. Plus, they still have to be intrigued by his hitting, so cutting him seems out of the question.
If he kills it this spring offensively and plays something close to decent defensively, maybe he’s a fine roster addition. If he doesn’t, maybe Boras persuades him to return to triple-A.
At the moment, though, it’s up to Guerrero. And Guerrero is making his choice very clear.