So Hey, Think About Michael Young, Starting At Second Base

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So says Ken Gurnick. So say we all.

The Dodgers let Mark Ellis, their starter at second base the past two years, leave as a free agent. They are trying to work out a deal to bring back Young, whom they acquired in a Trade Deadline deal, because he could start at second base if Guerrero isn’t ready or be a threatening bat off the bench.

Young was last a regular second baseman in 2003. He didn’t see any time there again until 2011, when he started 14 games (and 14 more the next year) as a utility type for Texas. I assume I don’t need to tell you how horrifying this scenario is, right?

Fortunately, Ken Rosenthal reports that Young is “strongly” considering retirement, and just because Gurnick is speculating otherwise hardly means it’s likely to happen. Still, the fact that we’re even discussing this on January 14 tells you a lot about how things stand. It’s not great.

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?

So The Dodgers Really Did Want Every Closer Ever

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Here’s a fun tidbit from Troy Renck of the Denver Post yesterday:

Rafael Betancourt couldn’t live with the uncertainty. There was path to retirement after he he tore his right elbow ligament last Aug. 22.

“But I didn’t want to wonder what if?” Betancourt said on Friday morning.

The 38-year-old elected to undergo surgery and said Friday that his recovery is advancing as planned. He will visit Dr. James Andrews next week, and should begin throwing soon after the exam. Betancourt plans to visit the Rockies for two weeks in spring training in March, and hasn’t given up on pitching during the 2014 season. The Los Angeles Dodgers contacted him as a free agent, but he’s committed to returning with Colorado.

“If I pitch again, it will be with the Rockies. I can’t see myself anywhere else at this point in my career. I have really enjoyed five years there,” Betancourt said.

I guess Ned Colletti really does want all the closers. Obviously, we have no idea if that “contact” was anything more than a 30-second phone call or a even a text message to check in on his arm, and this also could have been from before Chris Perez & Brian Wilson were signed. Obviously, Betancourt wasn’t interested anyway. Still, it’s an interesting approach to take, similar to how Texas signed Joakim Soria to a two-year deal knowing he’d miss most or all of the first year after elbow surgery. Betancourt toiled in relative obscurity for years in Cleveland, but has served as Colorado’s closer since late 2012, and has long been an underrated reliever — in 11 big league seasons, he has a 9.5 K/9 mark while walking just a hair over two per nine.

Learning Nothing About Masahiro Tanaka

So here’s a thing that happened today:

Yeah! Give me all of the Tanaka! This multi-headed rotation monster can’t be stopped! The 2014 Dodgers are going to win 207 games and 14 World Series titles!

Oh, what’s that?

Got it. So basically, we’ve learned absolutely nothing new today. The Dodgers have interest in Masahiro Tanaka, as we already knew. They’re almost certainly going to offer him a ton of dollars, though we don’t yet know if it will be all of the dollars. And even if they do, it might very well come down to whether or not he prefers to be in Los Angeles or Seattle or Boston or New York or elsewhere.

So nothing’s changed, really. We’re about 30 minutes past there being two weeks remaining until Tanaka’s deadline comes due at 5pm ET on January 24, and you can be all but certain that you won’t know where he’s going until the very last minute… which again, we already knew.

This concludes your regular “disregard 99% of what writers tweet about teams or players having ‘interest’” update.

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.