I’m not sure what the Dodgers are going to do about the Andre Ethier situation, and so far they have yet to find a trade for him. While the Dodgers are willing to pay half of Andre’s salary, it doesn’t mean another team is jumping to absorb even half of Ethier’s contract. Although I still feel that Ethier is still a good bench option for the Dodgers and provides defensive flexibility with his ability to play all three outfield positions, it is clearly evident that Joc Pederson will most likely be the Dodgers’ Opening Day center fielder.
I’m not saying that Joc is a shoe-in just because of the pair of hits he collected in Wednesday’s Cactus League opener against the White Sox (one hit was against old friend Brad Penny), it is because Joc has gone as far as he can in triple-A after putting up record numbers with Albuquerque last season. The starting role is Joc’s to lose, but my take away from the first game of the Spring is that Joc is ready.
The Dodgers could hold Joc down in triple-A for another season in order to extend team control, but after the Dodgers traded away Matt Kemp it essentially cleared Joc’s path to the majors. I think we can all agree that the best outfield for the Dodgers right now is Carl Crawford, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig. I could have Puig play center field all day long, but I’m also excited to see Joc take over center field with Puig’s cannon arm shifting back to right field where he started.
The outfield will sort its self out eventually, but another Dodger story line to consider is that of Cuban infielder/outfielder Alex Guerrero. Guerrero, who has been adamant that he doesn’t want to play in the minors in 2015, is trying to find his niche on the team.
Like Pederson, Guerrero had two hits during the Dodgers’ first Spring Training game on Wednesday. Don Mattingly had some positive words to share with the media about Guerrero after the game.
"“I really do think the second year [in camp] he looks a lot different as far as being relaxed,” Mattingly said. “He’s swinging the bat well and he keeps improving.”"
Mattingly also mentioned, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, that the “Guerrero is beginning to impress the club as he learns to play third base. The more he hits, the better he’ll look at third.”
Many negative statements regarding Guerrero’s defense have proliferated, but when I watched Guerrero working the infield last Spring he looked capable.
With Juan Uribe‘s contract season upon us, perhaps the Dodgers are contemplating Guerrero’s future with the Dodgers as a possible third baseman. Guerrero played many games at shortstop in Cuba before defecting to the United States and signing for $28 million in 2013 with the Dodgers. The Dodgers understood that the terms of Guerrero’s contract gave him the ability to nix a minor league assignment after his first year (2014).
Even though I’m a huge Juan Uribe fan, I understand that Juan isn’t getting any younger and in his last year of his contract with the Dodgers. I could go another season with his sparking defense, but I’d love to see Guerrero find a spot on the team.
The Dodgers paid Guerrero $4 million to play in triple-A last season. This season Guerrero will make $6.5 million during his second year of a four-year contract. Guerrero has only played in 11 games for the Dodgers during his brief September call up. He picked up one base hit in 13 at bats. Last season in the minors, Guerrero hit .333/.373/.621 with 17 homeruns and 57 RBI over 77 games.
If Alex Guerrero should break with the team in April, that could mean a triple-A assignment for utility man and Gold Glove winner Darwin Barney with Guerrero and Justin Turner manning the bench and providing infield help. Scott Van Slyke (or possibly Chris Heisey) will be on the bench along with presumably two infielders.
Guerrero’s bat isn’t the problem, but with the Dodger infield essentially set, it will be hard for Guerrero to find his role on the team. Mattingly has said he will play Guerrero at a variety of positions this Spring including outfield, but third base could be a realistic spot for Guerrero to make his case.