As The Guerrero Turns

Again, I don’t really like talking about upcoming player or management moves when Game 5 of the NLCS is just hours away, but it’s being reported, so it’s worth noting. For something like the 75th time in the last six months, the Dodgers and Alexander Guerrero are in the news:

The Dodgers are again one of a few teams in the thick of the Alex Guerrero talks, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Guerrero, the power-hitting Cuban infielder who has been compared to Dan Uggla (the good Uggla, before his slump), reportedly was close to a deal several weeks ago with the Dodgers, but that one fell apart after it was realized that Guerrero’s first representatives were not certified agents.

The Dodgers were suggested in some reports to be unlikely to get back into the derby after their first deal fell through. But it appears they are back in now.

That first potential seal was reported by MLB.com to have been for $32 million over five years. Now, Guerrero, 26, is said to be seeking a deal for four years maximum, so he can become a free agent at age 30.

We’ve been over this a few times, but the short version is that Guerrero is expected to bring good power for a middle infielder, and should be able to handle second base defensively considering that he’s been a shortstop in Cuba. Obviously, the Dodgers have an opening at second base (exercising Mark Ellis‘ option isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s not ideal) and just about none of us want Robinson Cano on an absurd contract, especially when Clayton Kershaw remains unsigned past 2014, so this fit makes sense. Bring it on — or don’t. Just sign somewhere already.

Six Questions About Alexander Guerrero

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.

Report: Alexander Guerrero Free to Sign, Please Take Our Money

Nearly two months since news prematurely broke that the Dodgers had signed 26-year-old Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero to a 7/$32m contract, there’s finally an update on this front after weeks of inactivity. Guerrero has been cleared to sign with a major league team, reports Darren Wolfson of ESPN, and while I won’t bore you with the political and technical details, the short version is that until both the United States government and Major League Baseball gave him clearance to proceed, he was on ice. It appears that now his time has come, and we could see him sign with a team this month.

Who might that be? We’ve long heard that the Dodgers are the frontrunners — they’re mentioned in just about every story that involves him, along with the Twins, Braves, and several others — and the fit here is obvious. The Dodgers have big holes at both second base (Mark Ellis is on the decline and has a team option for 2014) and third base (Juan Uribe is a free agent) with little immediate help from the farm system to fill those spots, and there’s not a whole lot out there other than paying a huge price for Robinson Cano or a massive prospect package for Howie Kendrick.

As the MLB Trade Rumors story quotes Ben Badler of Baseball America

As Ben Badler of Baseball America pointed out in a subscription-only scouting report in early August, interested parties likely view Guerrero as an offensive-oriented second baseman. Questions about his range and first-step quickness will likely prevent him from sticking at shortstop in the Majors, according to Badler, who added that raw right-handed power was Guerrero’s best tool.

Yes, please. I will offer the usual caveats here that I have never seen Guerrero play and know little about him other than what the reports indicate, and there’s as much chance that he becomes the next Andy Morales rather than the next Yasiel Puig, so there’s never any guarantees here. Still, the cost here is only money, and something like 15% of what Cano is likely to get at that. Even if he’s merely a solid-average player and not a superstar, that seems like a reasonable risk to take, and I have to imagine the Dodgers remain interested. Here’s hoping they land him.

Report: Dodgers Sign Cuban Shortstop Alexander Guerrero to 7/$32m Deal

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.