Elian Herrera On His Way to Los Angeles, But Why?

So here’s a fun mystery to end your Sunday evening: according to ESPN/LA’s Tony Jackson, Albuquerque utilityman Elian Herrera is on his way to Los Angeles, though there’s no indication yet of why or for who.

First things first, who the hell is Elian Herrera? I’ll admit that I know very little about him, other than that he’s a 27-year-old Dominican who signed with the Dodgers back in 2003 and made his stateside debut in 2006. He climbed slowly through the organization, not playing more than 70 games in a season until 2009, and is basically considered organizational depth, thought of as a complete non-prospect, if he’s even thought of at all. As far as I know, he’s never been mentioned on any prospect lists ever, and even Brandon Lennox, writing at TrueBlueLA this offseason, ranked him as the #117 overall prospect. No, not in the minors; in the entire Dodger organization.

While he’s shown a decentish ability to take a walk, he has just about no power, and would likely be a total zero at the plate at the big league level. What he does have going for him, however, is versatility, as he’s played every position other than catcher in his career; at Albuquerque this year, he’s mainly been playing second base and hitting leadoff. Christopher Jackson, guesting here a few weeks ago, had this to say:

Bundy said the Isotopes’ turnaround, from a 2-6 road trip to their current record of 11-9, has been thanks in part to the ultra-versatile Herrera. A pure contact hitter (.340/.357/.566), he is Albuquerque’s fastest player and has done well out of the leadoff spot. Defensively, he has looked especially sharp at second base and third base, while also seeing time at shortstop and the outfield. He would strictly be a bench player at the next level, but with Jerry Hairston and Adam Kennedy not getting any younger, the Dodgers could do worse.

Okay, so he’s speedy, he can play a bunch of positions, so that’s great. But what exactly is he doing with the Dodgers? I’ve been tossing this around in my head and it’s fascinating, because nothing quite makes sense. We know Matt Kemp is headed for an MRI, but he claims he’ll miss just a few days and it’s far too soon for him to go on the disabled list, and either way, 40-man outfielders Trent Oeltjen & Matt Angle might make more sense. Jackson suggests that perhaps Dee Gordon could be headed for the minors, but that doesn’t make a ton of sense either; Don Mattingly seemed adamant that Gordon would be back atop the lineup tomorrow, and despite all of Herrera’s flexibility, his experience at shortstop is limited – you’d think Isotope shortstop Luis Cruz might be a simpler fit.

Who else? You know I’d absolutely love to get rid of Adam Kennedy in any way possible, and Herrera’s versatility would be a nice improvement even if the bat is an equal zero, but I don’t see that happening either; though I think the axe will fall on Kennedy at some point, it seems odd that Herrera would be the man to push him out, and the timing is wrong anyway, since Hairston should be back within the next week or so. I hear some conversation that the club would rather have Justin Sellers play every day in the minors than sit on the bench in the bigs, though again, Herrera’s limited shortstop experience makes that unlikely. Or it could be something completely unexpected, like Juan Uribe‘s wrist acting up again. That’s all without figuring out how Herrera would get on the 40-man roster as well, since it seems premature to move Juan Rivera to the 60-day DL – which would mean that either Oeltjen or Angle are almost certainly going to get DFA’d tomorrow.

If I had to guess, right now, tonight, I suppose my best guess is that they just want him in town and available should Kemp’s MRI tomorrow come back worse than expected. If he goes on the DL, Herrera replaces him. If Kemp doesn’t go on the DL, he’s still probably going to miss a few days of play, so then Sellers goes back down to the minors because he has options, even though it leaves short thin. You’d need Herrera because he can play center and you just can’t have Tony Gwynn being the only man on the roster with that skill; then, when Kemp is available, you either bring back Sellers or have Hairston ready to come back

For the moment, this is just spitballing, though. Fascinating story, really, for a guy none of us had ever thought of before tonight.