Following Nick Punto‘s beeline to Oakland this week, the Dodgers will be discussing their options on how to fill his place. Although Punto wasn’t a juggernaut with the bat during his tenure as a Dodger, he filled in at shortstop admirably while Hanley was disabled this past season. While Punto’s presence on the bench was a lot more gritty than the next guy, the Athletics snatched him up on a $3 million deal which the Dodgers refused to match. Head first slides into first base sure do cost a lot of money these days. Punto played in 116 games for the Dodgers in 2013, and while he was no means a superstar, the Little Pony was there when Hanley was not. Yet he left on a bad note after that awful and costly pickoff in Game 4 of the NLCS. Why, Punto? Why?
The Dodgers better not let Hanley Ramirez play in the World Baseball Classic next year. The Dodgers were forced to start Justin Sellers (who remains in the Dodgers’ system and is an option for a back-up shortstop) on Opening Day, and I doubt they want to repeat that desperate move for 2014. Corey Seager is still a couple of years away, and he may be moved over to third base eventually. Ned Colletti has said that he is leaving Seager at shortstop for now, and the eventual Hanley, Seager, Guerrero, Gonzalez infield of the future does intice me.
Alexander Guerrero, the international free agent the Dodgers signed this offseason, will be starting at second base. I feel that he will be the Opening Day starter at second base, and we will be able to see how his speed and power add another layer to the lineup. It wouldn’t hurt to also re-sign Mark Ellis for a part-time role at second and off the bench. MEllis could mentor Guerrero a bit if he should want to. MEllis is still great defensively, and he is an asset to any team.
Dee Gordon, who is playing some outfield in the Dominican Republic winter league, is the first in line to back-up Hanley now. Dee only played in 38 games for the Dodgers this past season, and he hit .234 with 22 hits and 10 stolen bases. He also committed 7 errors at short, and that brought up his grand total of career errors to 35 as a Dodger since 2011 when he debuted. The speedy infielder has talent, but it is very murky as to his future with the Dodgers especially after Hanley Ramirez was signed. But if the Dodgers do not sign another shortstop this winter, Gordon will be looked to as Hanley’s back-up.
As far as first base, Adrian Gonzalez will be the mainstay until 2019. As far as a back-up first base, it would be a Scott Van Slyke or a possible free agent signing for the bench to fill in for those rare Gonzalez off days.
The main areas of concern are shortstop (even if it’s a back-up position) and third base. The Dodgers could sign a free agent to man shortstop should Hanley have health issues or if he agrees to move to third base which he may not want to do just yet. Stephen Drew is available, and he just declined his qualifying offer. Other than that there is a bunch of ex-Dodger shortstops on the free agent block like Luis Cruz, Cesar Izturis, and Rafael Furcal. There’s Jhonny Peralta who made $6 million with the Tigers last season, or there’s veteran Willie Bloomquist who can play shortstop as well as second and third base. Seems like the type of veteran player the Dodgers look to.
Another easier and perhaps cheaper option would be to re-sign Juan Uribe to play third base with Hanley at short, Guerrero at second,
and Gonzo at first. This would be my ideal infield going into Spring Training. Guerrero’s natural position is shortstop, so he could slide over to short if needed when Hanley isn’t playing. Juan Uribe even plays shortstop decently as well in case of an emergency situation. That scenario would also most likely work if the Dodgers also re-sign Mark Ellis. If anything happened to Hanley, Guerrero could play SS and MEllis take over second.
As far as third base free agent options, there’s not much choice either. Juan Uribe looks like the best choice unless the Dodgers go for a trade. There’s been inklings that the Mariners are interested in Matt Kemp, so perhaps a swap for Kyle Seager + prospects could benefit both teams? I’m not hoping for Matt Kemp’s trade, but I’m all ears to find out what Seattle could offer in return.
Kemp only played in 73 games, and Hanley only played in 86 games this past season. Without Nick Punto, the Dodgers will need to plan their infield accordingly. Whether they obtain another shortstop and or third baseman via free agency or through a trade, it is looking like the Dodgers will definitely have to not only bolster their infield coverage but their bench as well.
Just sign Uribe already!