We all know that the Dodgers currently have a giant hole at third base, because it’s something we’ve been talking about for weeks. Simply look at the organizational depth chart: the top four teams have nothing at the position, and if the Dodgers needed to field a team today, it would probably be with Justin Sellers filling in at the hot corner. But we also know that options are so, so limited. The best choice at the moment seems to be to bring back Juan Uribe, which isn’t without risk, or make an expensive trade for one year Chase Headley, or gamble David Freese. It’s not pretty, and it’s not like they are the only team that needs help at the position — the Yankees & Angels, to name just two, also have questions.
So while we don’t yet know who is going to be in the lineup at third when the Dodgers open the season in Australia, Ken Gurnick does toss out an interesting proposition:
The Dodgers are not expected to bid on second baseman Robinson Cano, but with free agency thin at third base, they will consider moving Ramirez to third base (probably paired with a contract extension) and acquiring a shortstop in a trade. Stephen Drew is considered the best free-agent shortstop available.
That’s interesting, because it’s the first time we’ve heard from anyone other than random fans that Ramirez moving to third base might be an option. It’s hardly a new idea, of course, because the Marlins did just that in 2012, and we spent most of last winter preferring that he play third rather than short. But it’s a topic that has largely died down since then, both because it seemed unlikely the team would risk upsetting Ramirez after we’ve seen what he can do when he’s happy & motivated, and because he played a surprisingly decent defensive shortstop after years of being lousy there.
I’m not sure if there’s anything to this, or if it’s just Gurnick speculating, though he’s rarely the type to toss out an idea without at least something behind it. The idea of it being paired with a contract extension makes a ton of sense; there’s no better way to keep a player happy than to give him many, many millions of dollars to go along with a plan. And for as well as Ramirez did play the position this year, it’s still not like he’s a big plus there — not to mention, the approximately 83 different injuries he suffered this year can’t have helped his mobility.
So it’s an option, but is it worth it? We never really looked into the shortstop market here, but it’s not like that’s much more robust than third base is. As Gurnick says, Stephen Drew is the best available, but that also makes him in demand. He’ll probably get a three- or four-year deal for between $11m and $14m annually, and he’ll cost a draft pick. Jhonny Peralta is an option as well and won’t cost a draft pick, but his ability to play both short and third makes him a hot commodity for many teams, and then you wonder if it doesn’t make more sense to just stick him at third rather than move Ramirez.
Alexander Guerrero is playing multiple infield positions in winter ball — or he was; there were reports of a minor leg injury yesterday, though details remain scarce — but almost no one thinks he can handle shortstop in the bigs, and you don’t imagine the team would have let Mark Ellis go if they didn’t expect him to play second. You could try to bid on the overvalued J.J. Hardy or the declining Asdrubal Cabrera; you could try to pry Elvis Andrus and his insane contract out of Texas. There’s more options than at third, but also many teams — Cardinals, Mets, perhaps Yankees, etc — who badly need a shortstop. (No, Dee Gordon is not an option. No, neither was Nick Punto on an every day basis, though I would have liked him back on the bench before he went to Oakland yesterday.)
Of course, moving Ramirez to third with an extension brings up another issue: it blocks Corey Seager, who is still far more likely to be a third baseman than a shortstop and between that and Ramirez’ likely unhappiness with the idea, well, I’m going to guess that such a switch isn’t happening. But with the total dearth of third base options, it’s not unreasonable to speculate about.