Trying to Solve The Alex Guerrero Problem

We’ve all seen it in various TV shows or movies; the main character is sitting on the floor of some room, surrounded by various pieces of hardware after being challenged to assemble some piece of furniture from vague and unhelpful instructions. And then, usually after a cutaway or some kind of time-lapse, we see the proud main character standing next to the completed product, showing off the fruit of his labor to some secondary character, who then rains on his parade by pointing out that while the product looks nice, there are a few leftover pieces that he somehow managed to exclude from the build.

That’s kind of what this Dodgers team feels like at the moment. On paper, this team could be very good, especially if Joc Pederson takes over as the regular center fielder and hits as well as the projections think he might. At that point, you have Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig in the corners, with an infield of Yasmani Grandal, Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins, and Juan Uribe. That group gives them above average projections at every position, the kind of strong supporting cast that can help one of baseball’s best rotations go after the NL West title. So that group looks pretty good.

But then, you look around, and there’s Andre Ethier hanging around, talking about wanting to play everyday and getting paid like a guy who should be a regular. But Ethier isn’t even the team’s best fourth outfielder, as Scott Van Slyke fills that role and complements the two left-handed hitting starters, plus Chris Heisey is hanging around as center field depth, providing a quality defensive option who could split time with Pederson if he proved to need a soft landing against good left-handers.

There are similar issues on the infield. The starters are basically locked in, and Justin Turner’s tremendous 2014 performance lines him up as the first guy off the bench in case Uribe, Rollins, or Kendrick need a day off. Darwin Barney is around for defensive acumen, giving the team a glove-first option to complement Turner’s bat-first profile off the bench. Those two make for a nice set of reserve infielders, but keeping both means that there isn’t really a spot for Alex Guerrero, who just publicly said he has no interest in being optioned back to the minors again this year.

And because of a provision in his contract, Guerrero has the right to refuse such an assignment this year, meaning that the Dodgers have to carry him on their 25 man roster, trade him to another team that will do so, or release him, which would mean they’d still have to pay the remaining $14 million — $4 million this year, then $5 million each of the next two years — on his contract without getting anything in return. In most cases, when you have a player in a situation like this, a trade is the most likely option, which is why Ethier’s name is going to pop up in rumors all spring long.

But there’s another provision in Guerrero’s contract that makes this even more difficult. According to Cot’s Contracts, if Guerrero is traded, he also has the right to opt-out of his deal following the season, making himself a free agent in the process. In other words, the Dodgers own Guerrero’s rights for three more years, but any team trading for him would only be guaranteed one year of team control, with the final two years essentially being a player option that would only be picked up if Guerrero flopped.

That’s not exactly an attractive trade chip. If you acquire him and he’s good, he hits the open market next winter and gets a big raise. If he’s terrible, it costs you $14 million to find out that he’s worthless. Trading for Guerrero is a big ball of downside with very few positive outcomes, and from a production standpoint, he projects similarly to Rickie Weeks, who signed a one year deal for just $2 million in guaranteed money as a free agent. Like Weeks, Guerrero is theoretically a second baseman whose glove might make him a better fit for a corner spot, though he doesn’t have any experience in the outfield. And while Guerrero’s projections suggest he’s something like a league average hitter, Weeks has the major league track record to back those projections up, so there was less risk involved in signing him than there would be in trading for Guerrero.

The market just valued a similar player at $2 million on a one year deal, so it’s extremely unlikely that any team would be interested in acquiring a significant chunk of Guerrero’s contract. If the Dodgers decide that he’s not better than Turner or Barney, then they really have no leverage, as their only option would be to release him and pay the full $14 million anyway. The longer this drags out, the less likely it is that the Dodgers find a suitor for Guerrero, and the more likely that they’ll just have to cut him.

Especially because they are also rumored to have significant interest in Hector Olivera, another Cuban infielder who will be declared a free agent in the very near future. According to Ken Rosenthal, Olivera has even taken a physical for the Dodgers, so there is almost certainly legitimate interest in bringing him into the fold. If the Dodgers signed Olivera, the move would almost instantly end any chance the team had of keeping Guerrero, and other teams could simply sit around and wait for the Dodgers to cut him rather than give up any value to trade for him.

So, realistically, the Dodgers should be trying to trade Guerrero as soon as possible, even if it only gets them a few million in savings. They’ve already shown that they are willing to pay players to play for a competitor — Matt Kemp, Dan Haren, and Dee Gordon are all still effectively on LA’s books for 2015 — in exchange for getting some value in return. So it seems like maybe there’s a way to structure a deal that would would give the Dodgers some upside while also allowing Guerrero to land on a roster where he could actually get some playing time.

Let’s say, for instance, that Andrew Friedman agreed to pay all of Guerrero’s 2016 and 2017 commitments, only asking the acquiring team to pick up part of Guerrero’s 2015 salary; say $2 million, to line him up with Weeks’ free agent price. That way, the team getting Guerrero is only paying $2 million plus some lower level prospect to take a shot on his short-term value, plus the right to get first crack at re-signing him if he plays well and opts-out of his deal. At just a couple million in total commitment, he’s potentially intriguing enough to go after.

The best part of this structure for the Dodgers? They don’t even need to get much back to get some upside in a deal like this. Their upside comes from getting Guerrero to opt-out of his deal next winter, which would then remove the $10 million in future payments they’d agreed to be on the hook for in the trade. $10 million isn’t a ton of money, but given their placement relative to the luxury tax, it would actually translate to $15 million in actual savings for the organization. Even without getting any real talent in return, that’s a significant enough savings to move him if given the chance.

So, where should the Dodgers be trying to send Guerrero in order to maximize his chances of opting out? The key is finding a team that has weaknesses at 2B, 3B, and LF, so that he’d get as many chances to play as possible, even if he proved incapable of handling one or two of those spots defensively. And luckily for the Dodgers, there’s a team with just that set of weaknesses in their own back yard.

The Angels are currently counting on some combination of Josh Rutledge, Grant Green, and Johnny Giavotella to man second base, making it one of the weakest 2B groups in all of baseball. They have the perpetually injured David Freese manning third base with no real backup behind him, and now that Josh Hamilton is both injured and maybe suspended, Matt Joyce is being pushed to left field, which means that there’s an obvious need for the right-handed half of a platoon there.

The Blue Jays could also theoretically be a fit due to their black hole at second base and lack of outfield depth, though third base is obviously closed off with Josh Donaldson around. The Rockies could use a second baseman and would give Guerrero a great chance to put up some big raw numbers, but they wouldn’t have room for him at third or in the outfield. The Rangers could potentially use him in left field and as depth behind Rougned Odor at second base, and also would provide a nice hitting environment for him to thrive in.

But to me, the Angels seem like the team with the most obvious need at the three spots Guerrero could theoretically play. Maybe call Jerry DiPoto first, and then use the Rangers, Blue Jays, and Rockies as leverage to try and get as strong a return as possible. But really, the best plan for the Dodgers is to try and ship Guerrero somewhere he’s most likely to play, increasing the odds that he opts out. Getting more savings off this year’s payroll or getting a slightly better prospect in return would be nice, but primarily, the Dodgers should be looking to give Guerrero his best chance to play and play well.

In this case, Guerrero’s most valuable to the Dodgers while playing for some other team besides the Dodgers. The longer he stays in their camp, the more likely it is that they’ll just have to cut him in a month. The sooner they can ship him to a team that would give him regular playing time, the best it is for everyone involved.

We hoped you liked reading Trying to Solve The Alex Guerrero Problem by Dave Cameron!

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everdiso
Guest
everdiso

solution, trade him to the red sox. it might not be quite enough, but a package headlined by blake swihart should get close

the red sox have a rapidly declining 2b who projects to be no better than average in a few years and an anchor by the end of his contract. theyre a big market team so they could swallow just cutting bait and replacing pedroia with guerrero for 2016 and onwards

Sean
Guest
Sean

I know it’s early, but this may be the worst comment on Fangraphs in 2015.

William
Guest
William

Is it satire? It must be satire, but I don’t know what it’s satirizing.

Mookiemania
Guest
Mookiemania

It’s so obvious.

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles

clearly just trolling

John
Guest
John

My favorite comment ever was when blake swihart was called a poor mans jp arencibia.

BuffaloBob
Guest
BuffaloBob

Oh heck, I can top that easy – trade Guerrero to the Giants for Bumgarner, Cain and Posey! Oh, and Bochey too.

The Arismendy Project
Guest
The Arismendy Project

Why on earth would the Sox unload the consensus best offensive catching prospect in MiLB for Guerrero when they have Pedroia and Betts? Guerrero’s clearly going to opt out after next year if he’s actually good, and they have Brock Holt projected to provide average production at the league minimum next season. Beyond 2015, the Sox will have Betts, Devin Marrero, and Sean Coyle all in the mix to step up.

The Arismendy Project
Guest
The Arismendy Project

Ok, maybe I took this one a little too seriously.

everdiso
Guest
everdiso

betts is being groomed to play the OF

pedroia’s war dropped from 5.4 to 4.4 last year and he’s already struggling with injuries again this year at age 31. he’s a good bet to drop to around 2 this year and down from there

with the jays and orioles young and looking to be in prime shape to contend and control the al east for the next 5 years or so, the red sox need to make some sort of bold move to get younger if they want to have a chance

chuckb
Guest
chuckb

And trading a top prospect who’s 22 for a 28 year old is the bold move the Sox need to make in order to get younger?

You didn’t really put much thought into this at all, did you?

Lenard
Member
Member
Lenard

True, the Red Sox clearly have no in-house replacement for Pedroia should he continue to decline. If only one of their glut of outfielders might be adequate at second base.

everdiso
Guest
everdiso

the rest of the industry doesn’t value swihart like the red sox hypers on fangraphs and other sites do

an average bat, average glove, catcher prospect who struggled at aaa like swihart just isn’t worth all that much

Lenard
Member
Member
Lenard

An average glove, average bat catcher is incredibly valuable and struggling at a 22 year old catcher in AAA for all of 71 plate appearances is hardly cause for concern.

drewcorb
Member
drewcorb

“incredibly valuable” is probably an overstatement. I think Dioner Navarro and Kurt Suzuki came pretty close to the “average bat, average glove” description last year and they were worth 2 WAR each. A catcher like that is definitely a nice piece to have in place but not exactly earth-shattering.

Pike
Guest
Pike

why would they do that when they could just plug Betts into 2nd?

Yirmiyahu
Member

Guerrero needs consent to be sent to the minors; he’s publicly said he won’t do that. The Red Sox currently have a roster crunch of their own; they have 14 MLB position players. Your scenario also does not work because Guerrero will only be on the acquiring team in 2015; if all goes well, he’ll opt out at the end of the season.

What I’m confused about is why we’re so sure Guerrero is no better than Rickie Weeks. He signed for $28M just last offseason. Since that time, he’s only got 321 professional plate appearances, of which a meaningless 13 of them were in the majors. He hit .333/.373 /.621/.994 in the minors.

I know the Dodgers don’t mind throwing away money, but doesn’t it make a hell of a lot more sense to trade someone else and keep Guerrero?

dom
Guest
dom

I agree, since he has so little trade value due to the contract provisions, why not roster him and trade Turner or someone else? Uribe is not a lock for 600 PA’s, it is not hard to envision playing time for Guerrero if they moved one of the other bench options. Guerrero clearly has more value to the Dodgers than anyone else so I don’t understand why he’s the one who would be traded. I would take him over Weeks any day of the week.

MustBunique
Member
Member

The fake everdiso troll bit is getting really old.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip

I’m ready for fangraphs to require an account with a unique username in order to post comments. Don’t know about anyone else.

What that would mean is we’d have to hold tryouts to determine who gets certain beloved parody accounts. We don’t want Ruben Amaro Jr to just go to the first rando who signs up with it.

But these names are fun
Guest
But these names are fun

It would be a bad idea.

You would not lose the trolls by changing the best feature of the comments and ‘everdiso’ was actually making a joke but whiffing instead.

Well-Beered Englishman
Guest

Plus we could get Free_AEC banned.

Ruben Amaro Jr.
Guest
Ruben Amaro Jr.

I’m confident I can win the tryout to be Ruben Amaro Jr., whatever that tryout might be.

Alex87878
Member
Alex87878

I thought this was a joke….. but then you oddly tried to defend your point….

Pedroia has played through injuries the past two season and yet has remained one of the top 2B in he game. He is not at all having injury problems to begin this season, he is actually healthier than he’s been in years. There is ZERO need for a 2B on the Red Sox, even if Pedroia were not there. How about Betts, and Coyle,and Marrero, and Monada? And don’t say “Betts is an OFer,” because his natural position is 2B and the currently logjam in the OF would make him a better 2B candidate than Alex Guerrero. And regardless, Pedroia, at the age of 31, is not going to see a drop of 2 WAR this season. In fact, I am 100% positive that Pedroia’s WAR this season will go up from last season. You can quote me on that, hold me to it, whatever.

If Swihart won’t be moved in a Hamels trade (and btw the rest of the league DOES value Swihart as much as the Red Sox, just ask Ruben Amaro Jr) then why on earth would they trade him for Guerrero? And to say that Swihart would only be the “headline” of a package? PLEASE! The dodgers would die if the Red Sox were willing to send even a piece of Swihart to them or Guerrero.

So I have no idea where you are coming from, but don’t waste everyone elses time with your completely unrealistic comments.

Oh and FYI, I am a Yankee fan and this is still my opinion….. So I have to imagine Red Sox fans are in further disagreement with you than I am.

Maybe Just One Of Us
Guest
Maybe Just One Of Us

I miss when everdiso would argue with his/her-self in the comments section.