With Guerrero free-falling from the depth chart, the Dodgers are now actively shopping the former Cuban star
Guerrero signed with the Dodgers before the 2014 season on a contract worth $28 million over 4 years. A shortstop in Cuba, Guerrero was forced to shift to second base upon his arrival on US soil with a below average glove and Hanley Ramirez incumbent at short. He was then thrust into a spring training battle for second base with Dee Gordon and lost, consequently spending much of 2014 in the minors.
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However, with a clause in his contract which allowed him to reject any minor league assignment in 2015, Guerrero found himself with the big club. However, after hitting .423 with 5 home runs in April, Guerrero struggled mightily the rest of the way to post a disappointing .233/.261/.434 slash line with 11 home runs. That was ‘good’ for a wRC+ of 89 (100 is league average) and a wOBA (a statistic much like OBP which aims to account for or ‘weight’ the value of extra base hits – a single is less valuable than a double etc) of .297 which falls in the ‘awful’ category (to read more about wOBA click here, it’s a great stat to learn how to use). When you combine that with a -4 DRS between 3b and LF, Guerrero wound up being a below replacement level player in 2015 (-0.2 WAR).
The incentive to move Guerrero is clear.
After reading the above paragraph, it’s probably fair to question why on earth anyone would want to take Guerrero on, yet alone give up something in return. Especially when further compounding the issue is a clause which allows Guerrero to opt-out at season’s end in the event he is traded. However, there are a few numbers which may be enough to entice teams to take Guerrero off the Dodgers hands.
Firstly and most obviously are the 11 home runs Guerrero slugged in just 230 PA. With offense sputtering in the MLB, power is at a premium and if Guerrero could hold that pace over a full seasons worth of plate appearances (appx 600), Guerrero would be on track for 25-30 HRs. Whilst 9 of those 11 home runs came in a 2 month burst in April/May – there’s something there.
Coinciding with this point is the .201 ISO Guerrero posted in 2015. ISO is a metric designed to express a players extra base hits per at bat and is often used to measure a players power. An ISO of .140 is considered league average, so Guerrero’s .201 mark is clearly well above average. Guerrero clearly possesses plenty of power and with better and more consistent at bats Guerrero should be a 20 HR threat – there’s something there.
Something else of note here, is that Guerrero’s production on offense was strongly correlated with the position he was playing. As a 3rd baseman Guerrero hit an excellent .318/.324/.591 with an OPS of .914 and a 150 wRC+ compared to a paltry .174/.214/.326 with a .540 OPS and 46 wRC+ in LF. Unfortunately, Guerrero’s production at 3b was buoyed by a ridiculous .356 BABIP but it stands to reason that in a 24 month period that has seen the 29 year old defect from Cuba, declare free agency, sign a $28M contract, move from SS to 2b, miss the cut out of Spring Training in 2014, get stuck in the minors, have a teammate bite his ear off, move to 3b, get promoted to the big leagues, get relegated to LF, lose the job in LF, to finally getting an at bat a week as pinch hitter, that playing a position closer to his natural SS is a little more comfortable for him. There’s something there.
Finally, despite all the talk about Guerrero’s poor glove work, UZR actually rated Guerrero an above average 3rd baseman in 2015 with a score of 1.2, DRS was a little less optimistic grading Guerrero’s work at -1 so the truth probably lies somewhere in between. Whatever the case, both of those metrics place Guerrero right around average as a third baseman (a position previously foreign to him). If Guerrero can maintain his defense at 3b and tap into the power he displayed in the early part of 2015, then Guerrero could go from being a player without a role to a solid regular.
There’s something there.
With $15m still owed to Guerrero over the next two years, the Dodgers would likely need to swallow a fair amount of cash to facilitate any deal. Whilst there’s some upside to Guerrero as discussed above, his poor performance in 2015 and opt-out clause present plenty of risk for an acquiring team. As such, the Dodgers are unlikely to receive a player with much value in return. The old default would be to say maybe he could net a solid reliever but as Aamer discussed earlier, the increased value of relief pitching means that even that is probably unrealistic.
GM Farhan Zaidi is going to have use every bit of leverage he has to extract some value out of this deal, but with the Angels and Indians (and perhaps some other AL teams looking for a DH) both searching for help at 3b, the Dodgers might be able to get themselves out from under the burden of Alex Guerrero‘s contract.