I figured no one really wanted to talk about Ryan Braun and all the problems that he brings, but I didn’t think something would happen to push that off the front page so quickly, either. The Dodgers have done so by giving big money to a Cuban, just not the one you think: according to reports, they’ve signed 26-year-old infielder Alexander Guerrero to a seven-year, $32m contract. Guerrero defected in January, and from what I can understand, he hasn’t actually played regularly since 2011 — I’m guessing the whole “lacked the motivation to play” business in those links is basically code for “was caught trying to defect.”
Due to his age and experience, he does not count against the limited international spending cap, and so the Dodgers (and every other team) were able to bid without restrictions. Unlike Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, there has not been a ton of talk around Guerrero, so it’s difficult to say we know a lot about him.
Chad Moriyama dug up some decent stats and a video:
Guerrero has been one of Cuba’s best players the last few years, hitting .338/.408/.641 in 2009, .343/.414/.583 in 2010 and .310/.400/.599 in 2011. Between the three seasons, he delivered 60 homers in 886 at-bats. One imagines that if the reports are true and he eventually becomes a free agent, he could take over as a starting shortstop or second baseman for an MLB team in short order.
So far, so good, right? Since he hasn’t played competitively in so long, we have no idea what sort of shape he’s in, and therefore shouldn’t really expect that he’s going to make much of an impact on the current season. (Though one unconfirmed report indicates otherwise.) But you expect that a guy his age with this kind of investment isn’t going to be down for long, assuming he’s what the team apparently thinks he is, and Roberto Baly is reporting that he’ll go to Double-A or Triple-A to play second base.
If so, that’s fantastic. Mark Ellis won’t be back next year, there’s no one currently in the system ready to replace him — no, not Dee Gordon — and we’ve long been terrified of being the team that gives Robinson Cano $200 million this winter. Again, we have no idea if Guerrero is worth it — for every Yasiel Puig & Yu Darvish, there’s Andy Morales & Kei Igawa — but Logan White has proven himself to be pretty adept at these moves in the past.
If the Dodgers just solved their second base hole (and I cannot overemphasize the “if” there enough), they’ve done it for something like $5 million per year, while Cano is likely to make that in two months. (We can talk at some other point about whether the right play is to have Guerrero play shortstop with Hanley Ramirez at third; we just don’t know enough yet.)
When the new ownership came aboard, Stan Kasten made it clear that a huge priority was going to be in rebuilding the international operations. So far, he’s backing that talk up with action, and it’s a phenomenal way to both flex that financial muscle and do so in a cost-effective way. Hopefully Guerrero’s worth it, but for now, with the limited information we have, this is nothing but good news.