“The best laid plans,” as Vin Scully would say.
The Dodgers’ new front office has already done a great job balancing the team out while remaining a top-tier team (this is undeniable, so save me your “front office can do no wrong,” comments). It seemingly had a plan for third base that it was going to enact sooner rather than later, but that plan may have fallen through.
I think this was to be part of the plan.
Source: Hector Olivera has been declared a free agent by MLB and is free to enter into a contract with a big league club. #Cuba
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) March 7, 2015
That’s something fans have been waiting to happen for awhile. But it comes just one day after this:
Sources: Serious concern Cuban IF Hector Olivera has damaged UCL and could need Tommy John surgery. News at Y Sports: http://t.co/974guOSxYj
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 5, 2015
Hector Olivera‘s potentially (probable) injury makes Alex Guerrero — suddenly — becomes a much more important player for the Dodgers now and in the near future. Others have refuted the report, but have done so citing the agent. What else is the guy who stands to make millions of dollars from the deal going to say?
Guerrero hit his first spring training home run on Friday and is off to a fast start (6-for-9 with four runs scored), which isn’t uncommon for him. Guerrero finished last spring training with a .300/.400/.500 line in 30 at-bats. Hitting well in spring training (or Triple-A) is not foreign to him. He just needs to prove he can do it against MLB pitching. Unfortunately for him, that is likely to come in a part-time role if he stays with the Dodgers.
Because of the (ridiculous) provision that he can not only refuse to go to the minors, he can also opt-out of his contract the season following one in which he’s traded. That last bit has only been reported by Ken Rosenthal, so we’re still not 100 percent sure it’s 100 percent accurate. It isn’t a knock on Rosenthal, but the fact no one else has been able to confirm this leaves just a little shred of doubt.
Olivera’s troublesome UCL makes it less likely he’ll sign with the Dodgers — at least, it should. He’s going to be 30 in April, and if he has Tommy John surgery, he’ll be out until his age-31 season (see Luis Gonzalez and Carl Crawford for reference). It seems the Dodgers were somewhat counting on Olivera to be their short-to-long-term solution at third base, with Juan Uribe averaging 118 games over the last two years and a free agent (at age-36) after the season. The front office has seemingly (and rightly) put its faith in Corey Seager to handle shortstop for at least a few seasons. That’s how it’ll get maximum value out of his bat.
If Guerrero can, somehow, become the super utility player he needs to be (and that’s a huge “if”), he could still have plenty of value to the Dodgers. The bat is going to almost certainly play at the big league level, but he will have to play some defense, even if he ended up in the American League.
Here are Guerrero’s positions played by games in the minors:
|Position||No. of games|
He played three games in the field for the Dodgers in 2014 — all in left field. In his first four spring training games, he has played third base, second base, left field and designated hitter. It’s, obviously, an extremely small sample size, but I’d expect him to get some looks in left field and maybe even first base later in camp.
Olivera isn’t signing for some ridiculous amount. Kiley McDaniel said Olivera could get $25-30 million before the news of his bum elbow broke on Thursday. A team could still pay him a lot of money (like maybe the Braves, which, OK), but they might be losing one of his few remaining prime years to surgery.
The Dodgers have enough to hold down third base for this year and maybe next year, especially if Justin Turner continues to be great (which isn’t close to a given). But outside of Seager shifting and the Dodgers replacing him with someone else, there isn’t a clear-cut plan for third base. It’s not something to get too worked up about at present, but it’s something to watch going forward. If Guerrero can be a viable option for at least part-time work at third base, that’d be a huge boost.
Now watch him get traded in three weeks and this will have all been for naught.