I was out with some baseball people on Friday, the day after Alex Guerrero hit two homers in Thursday night’s televised Isotopes game in Fresno, and the question was posed to me: How are the Dodgers going to handle having both Guerrero and Dee Gordon, since Gordon has played so surprisingly well? Guerrero then mashed another on Friday, then two more in the Sunday finale. That’s five homers in four games in one series, nine on the season, and a line of .355/.403/.691. It’s a question that is becoming more relevant by the day.
Here’s one of them, a no-doubter blast off of Chris Heston:
The usual disclaimers apply, of course: Albuquerque stat lines are not to be believed (I presume I need not remind you of Miguel Olivo and Tim Federowicz), although five of his nine homers have come on the road, and it’s foolish to merely scout a minor league stat line and presume you know anything about a player. Still, it’s difficult to deny that by all indications, the bat seems like it’s for real, which fits with what we heard about him when he was signed, and the longer he mashes in Triple-A, the louder the question will become: what do you do with both Gordon and Guerrero?
For now, the obvious question is “nothing,” because Gordon is playing well, and Guerrero’s defense still needs a lot of work. This is one of the many wonderful side effects of how well Gordon is doing — you don’t need to rush Guerrero. You can let him learn second base and improve. But people are already starting to wonder, and at some point it’s going to come to a head. If Guerrero keeps hitting, he can’t stay in Triple-A forever.
So… what then? There’s lots of options, but maybe none are good.
If you’re convinced the new Gordon is for real, then maybe Guerrero doesn’t have a place to play. But no matter how well Guerrero is hitting in Triple-A, this is problematic at best. Guerrero’s contract, defense, and lack of major league track record aren’t going to bring back massive value, and even if they did, Ned Colletti and friends would have to swallow a ton of pride to make that move, unless as part of some ridiculous David Price deal.
Besides, the “if you’re convinced the new Gordon is for real” part isn’t without its own issues; as wonderful as Gordon has been, the downturn we all knew was coming has begun. Over the last two weeks, he’s hitting .222/.288/.315, because it’s amazing what happens when your BABIP isn’t north of .400 all the time. That’s not to say he hasn’t provided value on defense or the bases, because he has, just that he was never, ever going to keep up his April run, and anyone who thought otherwise doesn’t understand baseball. The question now is whether he reverts to the old Gordon, or if he can be at least a league-average hitter from here on out, because that’s a valuable player. It’s still an open question, though.
This is intriguing if you believe that Gordon has peaked and that the concept of “sell high” is something the Dodgers ought to be doing. (Flashback to everything we said about Javy Guerra after 2011.) I think I said this before the season, but if Gordon even managed to use this opportunity to turn his value from “negative” to “something,” it would have been a success, and I can see scenarios where this makes sense. That said, it’s pretty unlikely, if only because a trade means you’re relying on Guerrero to produce immediately before (presumably) he’s had the chance to do so, which puts him in a situation to fail. This probably won’t happen.
Gordon is hitting .179/.179/.231 against lefties this year, and .214/.253/.231 for his career. It’s ugly. Guerrero has shown no platoon split in small-to-the-point-of-basically-unusable samples. I’m fully on board with the idea of Gordon not facing lefties — unfortunately, Justin Turner hasn’t really shown much — but this does seem to be an idea that is shortsighted. If you want Guerrero to learn how to play better defense, he needs to play every day… not twice a week or so along with some pinch-hitting appearances.
Move Guerrero back to shortstop
There’s just no possibility of this happening, and it’s mentioned here only because you’d be surprised at how often I get this suggestion from fans, either in anticipation of Hanley Ramirez leaving as a free agent or — and this is real — from those who want to trade Ramirez now. (Yes, really.) Of course, it’s not at all realistic. I haven’t seen a single scout who really thinks Guerrero could play shortstop in the bigs (look at how much trouble he’s had with second) and he’s played zero innings there this year. It’s just not happening. Moving on.
Move Guerrero to third base
This is a fascinating thought, really. We know the Dodgers have no third base depth behind Juan Uribe, and although we all think Corey Seager ends up there, he’s still a shortstop and could potentially at least reach the bigs at short and stick there for a year or two before moving over. Considering Seager probably isn’t getting a shot before 2016, that could mean third base is open though 2017 or so, meaning the timing works. (Or Ramirez is there by then. Who knows.) If Guerrero shows he doesn’t have the range for second, maybe this is his future. But for now, he’s not played an inning there, and while Colletti didn’t totally shut down the idea — saying “We may, in time,” a few days ago — you certainly don’t cut down his second base time until you’re absolutely sure he can’t play it. This may be a long-term idea, but it sure doesn’t seem like a 2014 one.
Nothing, because these things always work themselves out
Ah, yes, the usual answer, the one we keep coming to about the outfield, and this is almost certainly the correct one. Despite the recent slide, Gordon has absolutely played well enough that no one should be pushing him out of his job soon. Despite the great hitting, Guerrero still has to prove he can play defense. That means that nothing really needs to be done right now. A month from now, maybe Gordon is the awful 2011-13 version and it’s easier to move him. Maybe Guerrero has stopped hitting and it’s less urgent to promote him. Maybe he hasn’t, but his defense hasn’t improved and you get cold sweats just thinking about the fielding of a Guerrero/Ramirez/Matt Kemp up-the-middle. Maybe — and let’s face it on this team — one or both have been injured. (Chone Figgins, starting second baseman!)
And maybe, just maybe, both are playing so well in June or July that you actually start actively needing to think about what the future holds. When you think about all the things that could go wrong, that’s probably among the least likely outcomes. If that does come to pass, well, that’s what they call “a nice problem to have.” Hard to have too many of those.