With the Dodgers looking at breakout performer Luis Cruz as a potential everyday third baseman next season, Hanley Ramirez could remain at shortstop, General Manager Ned Colletti said Thursday.
A lifelong shortstop, Ramirez was moved to third base by the Miami Marlins to make room for free-agent addition Jose Reyes. The Dodgers moved him back to shortstop soon after they acquired him in July.
Ramirez’s defensive play was uneven, prompting Manager Don Mattingly to say last week that the team would consider switching him back to third base.
But in his end-of-the-season address at Dodger Stadium, Colletti said, “If this was the opening of the season, he would be the shortstop. … Why not Hanley at short? Did you watch Cruz play?”
A 28-year-old career minor leaguer who came into the season with 56 career appearances in the major leagues, Cruz was called from triple A in early July. He batted .297 with six home runs and 40 runs batted in in 78 games for the Dodgers.
So where does that leave 24-year-old shortstop Dee Gordon?
“You have to compete at the big league level and you have to be one of the best players playing the position in order to make the big leagues,” Colletti said. “He’s going to have that opportunity like he had the opportunity this year.”
Gordon, who missed a big chunk of the season with a thumb injury, batted just .228 with a .280 on-base percentage and was erratic defensively. He is scheduled to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
With Ramirez, Cruz, Gordon, Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston Jr., Nick Punto and Juan Uribe under contract or club control for next season, the Dodgers appear to have an abundance of infielders. But Colletti said he doesn’t feel compelled to trade any of them, pointing out that Hairston can play in the outfield.
Colletti was noncommittal when asked if there would be a place on the team for Uribe, who will be in the final year of a three-year, $21-million deal next season. Uribe batted .191 in 66 games. He had only one plate appearance in the Dodgers’ final 34 games.
Colletti sounded optimistic about outfielder Carl Crawford, one of the four players the Dodgers acquired from the Boston Red Sox. A four-time All-Star who is owed more than $100 million, Crawford underwent reconstructive elbow surgery on his throwing arm in August, but Colletti thinks he will be the opening-day left fielder.
“We don’t expect the arm to be full strength until April or May,” Colletti said. “But that doesn’t preclude him from playing.”
Crawford won’t be the only outfielder recovering from surgery. Matt Kemp is scheduled to undergo a shoulder operation on Friday. Kemp is also expected to be ready for the start of the season.
That being the case, Colletti doesn’t think he has to add a starting outfielder.
Colletti said outfield prospect Yasiel Puig could make an impact next season. Puig, a 21-year-old Cuban defector, was signed to a seven-year, $42-million contract in June. He is on the 40-man roster and will be in big league camp in spring training.
Colletti confirmed that the Dodgers’ focus in free agency will be on pitching.
With Chad Billingsley still facing the possibility of reconstructive elbow surgery and Ted Lilly recovering from a shoulder operation, Colletti said he would look to add depth to the starting rotation.
Colletti wants to re-sign the Dodgers relievers who will be free agents: closer Brandon League, right-hander Jamey Wright and left-hander Randy Choate.