The Dodgers and the dilemma with Alex Guerrero
Somebody, some scout, somewhere with the Dodgers really liked Alex Guerrero. When you saw him get off to a blazing start at the plate last season, it was easy to understand. When you saw him the rest of the season, you wondered what that somebody was thinking.
Fresh off their then-success of having signed Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers gave fellow Cuban Guerrero a four-year, $28-million contract. He was 26 and a shortstop, though no one projected him as one in the majors.
The Dodgers thought they could convert him to second base, but one season of trying to convert him and they bailed. His range was marginal, and he was a bit stiff. They tried third base and the outfield last year, desperately trying to find him a position because his contract strangely guaranteed him a roster spot in his second season.
So there he was in 2015, on the roster, a man without a position, if a bat that demonstrated some power. In his first 40 games, he hit .297 with 10 home runs. It got to the point where I thought the Dodgers had to play him more regularly.
But over his next 66 games, he was a different player at the plate, and alas, the same one on the field. He hit .197 after June 3 with one home run. Maybe it was the old story of pitchers making adjustments and the player failing to respond in kind, but he was never the same at the plate.
So what do the Dodgers do with him now?
He is still obligated to be on the 25-man roster by his contract, which has two more years and $10 million remaining. If he could be anything close to the hitter he was the first two months of the season, he would still have viable use as a right-handed pinch-hitter. But if he’s anything close to the hitter he was afterward, he’s just roster dead weight.
It isn’t like anyone in the current front office — which did not sign him to his deal — has shown any hesitancy in eating contracts. At least not last off-season.
But $10 million is still a significant amount, particularly if you believe he could have some reasonable use. Guerrero started in 49 games last season, 20 at third base and 29 in left field. He was substandard at both, and, somewhat understandably, he often looked awkward in making the transition to an outfielder.
It would be nice if the Dodgers could move him to an American League club, where he could pinch hit and get time as a designated hitter, but because his season nosedived and his contract requires that he remain on the 25-man roster (he can become a free agent the season after he is traded), it figures to make opportunities to trade him something less than plentiful.
The Dodgers figure to try, of course. It may not be high on their priority list, but it has to be on there. And if they can’t trade him, which likely would mean agreeing to pay for a substantial portion of his contract, their choice is either to keep him or eat the rest of his deal.
They could first take him to camp, see if he looks more like the hitter from the first half, see if there is someone who clearly deserves to be on the roster ahead of him. If there is, that’s $10 million to swallow.
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