Progress At Second Base

Second base is still a huge concern, but at least there’s some good news: J.P. Hoornstra reports that Alexander Guerrero has finally received his visa and is currently in the country, presumably headed straight to Arizona. As we’ve learned over the years with Ronald Belisario‘s endless issues — obviously, Belisario brought a whole lot of that on himself — simply getting a foreign player into America isn’t always the easiest. This doesn’t necessarily alleviate any of the other concerns we’ve had about the keystone, but it’s a good start. You can’t prove you can play if you can’t legally get to the field, right?

Concerned About Second Base Yet?

This morning at FanGraphs, I took a look at the increasingly questionable second base situation for the Dodgers:

But while there’s obvious questions about how reliable the projections might be, the unavoidable truth is this: if Guerrero doesn’t work out or isn’t ready, the Dodgers have almost nowhere else they can turn, and so if this isn’t the worst situation for a contender in the bigs, it’s almost certainly the riskiest.

This isn’t our Miguel Rojas. But it is a Miguel Rojas, and how could I resist?

It’s not that I don’t like Alexander Guerrero, of course. It’s that he has so many questions marks hanging over him — mainly the missed season in Cuba and limited winter ball play thanks to an injured left hamstring — that I can’t say that it’s at all a given that he’s going to be ready to play on Opening Day. And, though the FG article only went up this morning, I wrote it on Tuesday night, before we got the added curveball about his uncertain visa status.

As you’ll see in the FG article, the primary in-house option is Dee Gordon, which is hardly appealing, and this situation is probably going to get Justin Sellers through yet another winter on the 40-man roster. And yet Ned Colletti keeps talking about Miguel Rojas, who did get an invite to the Winter Development Program, and who reportedly has an outstanding glove. Yet there’s just seemingly no way that a guy who has a career .234/.302/.287 line in parts of eight minor league seasons — all but 44 games of which have been below Triple-A, where he hit only .186/.226/.233 in 2012 and didn’t return to in 2013 — can be anything approximating even a below-average major league hitter.

Hopefully, Guerrero gets into the country, arrives at camp, and shocks us all. But with each day, I’m feeling less confident about that, and there’s no good alternatives available otherwise. Right now, this is probably the biggest trouble spot on the team heading into 2014.

Here’s Who Isn’t Playing Third Base Next Year

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Ned Colletti dropped some truth about the Dodger infield today, and a few of the usuals collected his comments. I assume by this point I don’t need to add the caveat that there’s generally an 80% chance of what a GM says publicly is less than truthful.

1) Hanley Ramirez is not under consideration for third base. That’s not a terribly big surprise, as much as many of us would like him to. It’s not like there’s another internal option for shortstop, and Stephen Drew (who would cost a pick) is the best of a poor free agent market. Ramirez reportedly would be open to a discussion, but that conversation hasn’t happened since he came to Los Angeles.

2) Neither is Alexander Guerrero. He’s “still being considered” for starting second baseman, but that’s dependent on winter ball playing time.

So we know who isn’t playing third. Who is? My money is still on Juan Uribe, especially if recent reports indicating he’s come off a three-year request are accurate. We’ll know soon; Uribe is likely to get signed one way or another this week.

Alexander Guerrero Will Be Good, Unless He Won’t Be

You may also remember…

…and:

…and:

The point here is not to disparage any of these reporters, most of whom I have great respect for, because they are largely passing along quotes they’d heard from within the game — and that is the point. With most of these international players, particularly the ones from locked-off Cuba, there’s going to be a wide variety of opinions within the game. As you can see above, there were plenty of people who didn’t like Puig or Ryu either, and they worked out pretty well.

Alexander Guerrero might in fact be a complete bust. We just have no idea. I could say “remember Yunesky Maya, but, of course you don’t remember Yunesky Maya, because he was useless. Just keep that in mind this winter, when you hear these reports about Guerrero, that we’re not really going to have any idea what he is until he hits the field. 

Fool Me Three Times: Alexander Guerrero Signs With Dodgers, Probably

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, or if you’ve heard it multiple times before: Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (now backed up by Jon Heyman) reports that the Dodgers have finally signed Alexander Guerrero to a four-year deal worth $28m. That includes a $10m signing bonus, according to Heyman, plus $4m in performance bonuses for a possible total of $32m, and if you’re wondering if those numbers seem lighter than expected, they are.

Back in July, when the first agreement was incorrectly reported, it was for 7/$32m. In September, it was 5/$32m, then earlier this month, we heard that Guerrero (and Scott Boras) preferred a shorter deal, so he could have his age 27-30 seasons with his new team, then reach free agency. It appears that’s what took place, so he actually improves his yearly value over what was originally reported while keeping open the option for another big contract four years from now if he’s successful.

While Heyman’s confirmation carries weight, we’ve been burned by these reports too many times, so I’m not sure I’m going to believe this until he’s standing in the box on Opening Day. Still, if it’s true — the MLB.com article says “closing in on” a deal — then it sort of puts an end to the questions from this morning about how to fill second base in 2014, as well as all but certainly closing the book on Mark Ellis.

If it’s real this time — and again, a huge if — I’m pleased, because most reports on Guerrero indicate real talent, definitely more of an upside over Ellis, and didn’t require giving up talent to get. Still, there’s a lot of unknown about him. You certainly can’t expect every Cuban to be Yasiel Puig or Yoenis Cespedes, and there are some who aren’t overly positive about him:

So while I’m optimistic, I’m cautiously so, and the team will need to find a pretty solid backup — preferably an upgrade on Nick Punto — who can step in if Guerrero struggles or Hanley Ramirez is injured. Still, I’d rather take the risk of the unknown than go with another year of Ellis, so consider me pleased… and still not convinced this unicorn is real.