Over the weekend, a few moves began to clarify the 2014 Dodger infield. Juan Uribe agreed to return, putting an end to the nightmare scenarios at third base, and Mark Ellis reportedly has agreed to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, giving them an insurance policy for young second baseman Kolten Wong.
We briefly thought the Dodgers might be exploring the same plan for Alexander Guerrero, though it never seemed all that likely after Ellis’ option was declined — a move I was unsure about at the time and like even less now. Anyway, now the team at least has some clarity on next steps in their infield: Adrian Gonzalez, Guerrero (probably), Hanley Ramirez, and Uribe are your starters, and your backups are… uh… well… hmm.
I hardly need to tell you that there’s a whole lot of risk in that quartet, really. Gonzalez is solid, but Guerrero is beyond unproven, Ramirez can’t be counted on for 162 games, and Uribe shouldn’t be. Nick Punto was a godsend last year, and there’s no one in the current organization who can fill any of those roles. (No, not Dee Gordon, or Justin Sellers.) Scott Van Slyke would seem to have a head start on a bench spot as a 1B/OF righty bat, but the 2B/SS/3B backup spots are just barren.
I’m sure we’ll hear about Eric Chavez, Kevin Youkilis, Mark Reynolds, and Michael Young until all four are signed somewhere, and each are varying degrees of acceptable as bench pieces, but obviously none can play up the middle, and that’s what’s going to be difficult. How do you find someone who is decent enough to play semi-regularly at both second and short, but who would be okay with being a backup? This is Brendan Harris‘ dream scenario, but that’s only a step above Gordon for me. Unfortunately, the free agent market is full of replacement-level no-hit, okay-field guys like Alexi Casilla and Paul Janish.
There’s just so little depth that all 30 teams don’t even have acceptable starters at both positions, so it’s difficult to find good backups there. That likely means that we’ll all be completely disappointed by whomever it is; then again, I suppose none of us were that excited by Punto either, and he turned out well.