For all those who thought the Los Angeles Dodgers would enter the Robinson Cano sweepstakes, they can forget about it because the team today announced the signing of 5-10, 197-pound free agent Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero to a four-year contract. Other media outlets have reported that the deal is worth $28 million.
With the franchise's once-renowned farm system devastated by former owner Frank McCourt, the Dodgers' new management have made a determined effort to look overseas, as well as domestically, in order to replenish the team's young talent.
Last season, LA received major contributions from two international rookies -- Korean starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Cuban five-tool phenom Yasiel Puig, the likely Rookie of the Year.
According to the team's front office, Guerrero is expected to be on the big league roster by next year.
“We feel Alexander can be an offensive infielder and a solid everyday player,” said Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti. “We’re looking forward to him competing for a middle infield position and becoming a key contributor in 2014.”
Guerrero, 26, played seven professional seasons for Las Tunas in the Cuban National Series from 2005-2012, earning three All-Star selections. During his final four seasons, Guerrero never batted below .290, while posting an OBP above .400 each year and hitting 81 blasts in 327 games. In the field, Guerrero committed just eight errors in 350 chances at shortstop, good for a .977 fielding percentage.
“We’ve watched a lot of Alexander at the international level,” said Dodger Vice President, International Scouting Bob Engle. “It’s been a true organizational effort to bring him aboard.”
The real question is whether he actually will be ready for the bigs by next season, and if so, at what position?
The answer will depend on the fates of second baseman Mark Ellis and third baseman Juan Uribe.
Uribe had a bounce-back season on the field and brought leadership and professionalism to the locker room, but is a free agent. If the Dodgers let him walk, they would be losing a decent power hitter and an excellent defensive player at the hot corner, which could force the team to move star shortstop Hanley Ramirez to third. Guerrero presumably would then take over at short.
A more likely option, however, is to place him at second.
Current veteran second baseman Ellis showed a solid glove in the field and was reliable as the team's number two hitter, but lacks the upside and potential power of Guerrero. The Dodgers have a club option on Ellis for 2014 at $5 million-plus, and must decide whether to let him walk and just hand the job to Guerrero, or to keep Ellis and let the two compete for the position.
Regardless of which path they choose, one thing is clear: the Dodgers will not be putting up mega-dollars to land Yankee free agent second baseman Cano.
By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for The Daily Sports Herald