Everyone’s still buzzing about Juan Uribe‘s night and the release of the 2014 schedule, but the prospect of the Dodgers signing Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero remains the most interesting impending Dodger story, with one report indicating that the team and player have agreed to terms and are just waiting on Major League Baseball to approve the deal. I’ve seen some misinformation and questions floating around about what exactly this means, especially when it comes to roster logistics, so let’s just clear as much as possible up right now.
1. Would he need to be added to the 40-man roster?
Assuming it’s a major league deal, which it almost certainly would be — Yasiel Puig‘s was — then yes, he would be. The 40-man roster is currently full, so space could be made by moving the injured Jose Dominguez or Shawn Tolleson to the 60-day disabled list, or by DFA’ing someone like Justin Sellers or Elian Herrera.
2. Could he play for the Dodgers this season?
Sure. There’s probably a less than zero percent chance that he actually would, given that he hasn’t regularly played competitively since 2011 and the deal isn’t even finalized yet as the season runs down, but he would be available to play once he’s added to the 40-man roster. Again, there’s just about no scenario where this happens in reality, but from a logistical standpoint, yes.
3. Could he play for the Dodgers in the playoffs?
No. Guerrero wasn’t in the organization before September 1, so even if he did play over the next few weeks, he still couldn’t play for them in October — not eligible.
4. When will we see him play first as a member of the Dodger organization?
My guess is that he’d follow the Puig plan, perhaps getting some plate appearances in Arizona during the fall instructional league, a loosely-structured set of games that begin on September 18 and run for just under a month. Then he’d probably play in one of the winter leagues before coming to major league spring training in February.
5. This is bad news for Mark Ellis, right?
Probably, but I’m also guessing it doesn’t change his situation as much as you might think. Ellis turns 37 next year, and he carries a long history of leg injuries and below-average offense, though he’s managed to hit at least enough to not kill you while you enjoy the fruits of his plus defense. We already know the Dodgers came close to picking up Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick at the trade deadline, and they were expected to take another run at him this winter. (Even with Guerrero, it’s possible they still might, I suppose.) This signing doesn’t help Ellis, but he wasn’t likely to be back anyway. As a limited bat who plays only second base and doesn’t offer the defensive versatility that a Nick Punto or Jerry Hairston does, he doesn’t appear to be an option off the bench, either.
6. What are the odds Guerrero is the Opening Day second baseman in 2014?
I’ll say 90%. You don’t give someone that kind of money if you don’t expect him to play, so barring an unforeseen injury and taking into account the lack of other options, he’s your man. That said, the long layoff is concerning, and there’s always the partial unknown that comes with an international import, so if he comes to spring training and starts flaming out like Tsuyoshi Nishioka, all bets are off. Between the uncertainty that Guerrero brings and the defense/health concerns present with Hanley Ramirez, I’m guessing the Dodgers will be sure to have a pretty solid 2B/SS backup option in 2013, probably someone not currently in the organization.