Currently listed as the fourth option at third base for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Alex Guerrero is rightfully on the trading block. With a glut of infielders, the Dodgers are facing a sticky situation with the Cuban infielder, signed to a four-year deal in 2013. Prior to the start of the 2015 season, Guerrero exercised a clause in his contract that allowed him to block any demotion to the minor leagues. Despite being nowhere in line to start for the Dodgers this season, and offering very little value as a defensive substitute, Guerrero will once again take up a valuable spot on the 25-man roster this season unless a trade can be executed.
Salary concerns aside, the situation with Guerrero is one that can potentially turn toxic in a clubhouse not already without its fair share of drama and tension. The front office may begin to look disdainfully on Guerrero the longer he stays on the roster, preventing him from getting an honest shot at playing time. The fact that he is represented by Scott Boras does not help things. Rookie manager Dave Roberts has enough on his hands lassoing the bucking bronco that is Yasiel Puig and getting him to play nice with teammates who may or may not wish he had been traded this offseason. Guererro does not serve much purpose on a team that will start Justin Turner at third base, Corey Seager at shortstop, and Howie Kendrick at second base. Chase Utley and Enrique Hernandez are more dependable defensive players than Guerrero. The 29-year-old will struggle to find playing time, but is still too unrefined at the plate to be reliable as a pinch-hitting option. After a hot start to the 2015 season, Guerrero received only 79 plate appearances over the final three months of the season, batting only .171 with one home run.
The reality of the situation is that Guerrero would have been well-served to spend a few months in Triple-A last season. In his first season after signing with the Dodgers, Guerrero hit .333/.373/.621 with 17 home runs in 77 games. He missed a significant portion of the 2014 season after Miguel Olivo went all Mike Tyson on him and bit off a chunk of his ear. There is plenty of power packed into Guerrero’s right-handed upper-cut swing, but he still struggles with breaking pitches. His defense is below-average, which reduces him to nothing more than a pinch-hitter with the Dodgers. Hitting a few times a week is not going to help Guerrero develop as a hitter, and his prodigious power potential will go unrealized unless the Dodgers are able to move him.
A rebuilding team should be willing to take Guerrero on as a project, especially if the Dodgers are willing to eat a portion of his remaining salary. Finding a trade partner, however, could be made difficult by Guerrero’s ability to opt-out of his contract after the 2016 season. If he goes to another team and shows an ability to produce at the big-league level, he will likely exercise his ability to become a free agent. Convincing Guerrero to restructure his deal slightly could make him a more attractive trade target for a rebuilding team like the Atlanta Braves or Cincinnati Reds. Under the current contract, he will make $10 million over the next two years. For the Dodgers, finding a trade partner should not be about finding the best return, but just finding a trade partner willing to make a potentially toxic clubhouse situation go away.
In the end, everyone wins if Alex Guerrero is traded. The Dodgers can free up a spot on their bench for a player who is useful for more than pinch-hitting appearances. Guerrero gets a chance to prove his worth on an every-day basis, and a rebuilding team gets a new asset to try out with very little risk. A fresh start is the best answer for all parties involved.