As we wait for confirmation of Clayton Kershaw‘s reported deal — TrueBlueLA has a good roundup of the other reports who have heard similar to what I have — there’s other business to attend to as the Dodgers head into their final game of the spring tonight.
When Hanley Ramirez was injured and Dee Gordon shipped out, it quickly seemed clear that Luis Cruz would move to shortstop and that some combination of Jerry Hairston, Nick Punto, and Juan Uribe would handle third. Yet over the last few days, we’ve been quietly hearing various reports that Justin Sellers is actually still in the mix to take shortstop, despite the fact that he was optioned to the minors on March 19. That’s becoming more prominent now that Sellers has been in the starting lineup at short in each of the first two games of the Freeway Series — though it’s fair to note that Cruz was playing in the Rancho Cucamonga game on Thursday night.
The reasoning behind this, apparently, is that Don Mattingly is impressed by Sellers’ defensive skill and considers Sellers/Cruz a stronger defensive left side than Cruz/busted trio. I agree with that, I suppose, but it seems to be by a very slim margin; for all the complaints we have about Punto & Uribe, their defensive skills aren’t really in question. It’s not a case of sacrificing offense for defense, either, because nobody has any confidence in any of the guys named here to contribute with the bat.
Going the Sellers route does open up some other questions, as well. First and foremost on that list would have to be, “how does he get on the roster?” He somewhat surprisingly survived the winter without being DFA’d, so he has a 40-man spot, but if he makes the active roster it means Alex Castellanos definitely doesn’t and that the bench would continue to be brutal. In this scenario, the main backups would be Hairston, Punto, Uribe, and Skip Schumaker (along with backup catcher Tim Federowicz), and that’s just bad.
In addition, keeping Cruz at third does cost us one of the perceived silver linings of the Ramirez injury, and that’s the opportunity for Cruz to prove himself as a regular shortstop, thus hopefully making it easier to slot Ramirez back in at third base when he’s healthy. If Cruz has spent that time at the hot corner, Ramirez is almost inevitably the shortstop when he returns. Maybe that’s going to happen no matter what, but I like the idea of there being an alternative, no matter how slim the odds.
If this does happen, I can’t say it’ll be a huge problem, because Sellers/Cruz would make for a nice defensive left side. I guess I’m just not sure the benefit of that is worth what it’d take to get him there. After all it’s only Justin Sellers, who heads into his age-27 season with as many arrests in the last year as big league home runs.
As always, the end result is this: come back soon, Hanley.