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In addition to missing the first three months of the season because of a fractured tibia, Dodgers’ outfielder Andre Ethier‘s absence is also having secondary effects on the substance of the squad — most specifically, determining which player fills his vacated spot on the 25-man roster.
On Tuesday morning, Eric Stephen of True Blue LA nicely laid out both the intangibles and the players on the fringe, indicating that all seven of Alex Guerrero, Austin Barnes, Trayce Thompson, Charlie Culberson, Elian Herrera, Rico Noel and Rob Segedin may be competing for one spot on the active roster.
But what about Guerrero? With the fine print of his contract almost guaranteeing him a big league roster spot wherever he may land, shouldn’t he be a lock for the 25-man roster, especially considering Ethier’s injury?
Somebody in former GM Ned Colletti’s regime liked Guerrero enough to offer him a 4-year, $28 million contract back in 2013. He played shortstop for most of his career in Cuba, but once he arrived stateside, the Dodgers had other plans. They tried him at second base as a safeguard to Dee Gordon‘s debut at the keystone, but the lack of solid range and glovework forced management to look at other options.
Consequently, Guerrero was given an opportunity at third base, then a quick look at shortstop, then back to third, and even a few games in left field last season. For someone warranted a roster spot through his contract, the coaching staff needed to find a fit for him somewhere on the field. In the end, the front office was left scratching their heads, largely caused by Guerrero’s shortage of adequate defensive skills.
After Miguel Olivo‘s ear-biting incident in 2014, Guerrero didn’t see much steady action in the bigs, mainly because that was the only year the Dodgers could utilize him in the minor league system, again due to contract specifications. He did show a little bit of pop last year in the majors with 11 home runs, but his overall slashline of .233/.261/.434 over 230 plate appearances was not overwhelming in the least.
It’s safe to assume that the Dodgers’ front office has been trying to trade Guerrero perhaps as early as the winter of 2014-15. A one-for-one deal with another team is highly improbable unless the Dodgers would settle for a lower-tier prospect and send money for all of Guerrero’s 2016 contract, plus a check for a chunk of his 2017 salary. That being said, another contract stipulation allows Guerrero to opt to become a free agent the season after he’s traded. On top of the $10 million he’s still owed, it’s easy to see why other teams remain uninterested in a trade.
There’s always the option of designating him for assignment. Although president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has shown no fear of DFAing players with hefty contracts in the past (see Brian Wilson and Brandon League), $10 million is just too large a sum to simply throw away, especially if Guerrero is able to provide a bit of pinch-hitting power off the bench.
For what it’s worth, there are slight mumbles among reporters around Camelback Ranch signaling that manager Dave Roberts is a bit dodgy when asked specific questions about Guerrero, mentioning only that Guerrero is one of several options at third base.
Ultimately, however, by keeping him on the 25-man roster now, it allows the front office to avoid the hassle of going through the waiver motions and adjusting the 40-man roster. And, as we’ve seen in past years, another wave of injuries could conceivably occur where Guerrero may be needed, especially considering the Dodgers’ lack of third basemen on the farm.
Regardless of everything said, fans across Dodgertown will bestow their faith and confidence upon Friedman and Company to make the best decision that’s both economical and productive on the field, as well as taking into consideration the best interests of the club moving forward.