When One Ian Desmond Isn’t Enough
I wasn’t overly thrilled at first with the Ian Desmond signing, mostly because of the draft pick compensation and defensive question marks but it’s grown on me since thanks to the opinions of people more reasonable than myself. Maybe a change of scenery revitalizes his career and we just push that pick down the road a year. I can be sold on that but we’ll see.
There’s no doubt this current roster needed an impact RHB. Before Sunday, a Rangers lineup without Adrian Beltre, for any amount of time, was going to be vulnerable to lefties. I don’t think anyone wants to see Elvis hitting 3rd or 5th again if possible.
Getting less left handed was something that needed to be addressed as the Rangers led all of baseball in ABs vs LHP with 2025 AB, nearly doubling up the Marlins at 1187 and the Tigers at 1214. Teams were going out of their way to line up lefties against the Rangers as they finished last in AB vs RHP. An interesting side note, the top 10 teams in ABs vs LHP are all AL teams. Being vulnerable there could be the difference between another division title or sitting at home.
The question now: Does this team have enough middle of the order firepower vs lefties? The answer really depends on which Ian Desmond shows up this year along with health of Beltre. With your most immediate minor league help being lefties, I’d like to see another move but who’s out there on the cheap?
We can assume that a big dollar player isn’t an option at this point because of budget constraints but there isn’t much available on the FA market unless you’re into overpaying Austin Jackson….which I’m not. In the process of looking for alternatives that don’t cost a 1st round pick and/or big dollars, I came across a player that is similar to Desmond with much smaller price tag who is likely on his way out of his current situation.
That player is Alex Guerrero of the Dodgers. Similar to Desmond, Guerrero is a failed power hitting, middle infielder who signed a 4/$28M deal back in 2013 after defecting from Cuba. The Dodgers have moved him around to LF and 3B but he’s essentially a player without a defined role or position based on their current roster construction. Most importantly, he’s available and being shopped around.
Guerrero has a quirky contract to say the least. There’s 2 years for $10.5M remaining on his original deal but he can opt out at the end of year if traded. He also can’t be sent to the minors without his consent. There’s been talk of the Dodgers kicking in money to trade him and possibly the dreaded DFA if they can’t. We could potentially be looking at a player that costs a marginal prospect and well under $5M for this year.
Why take a flier on the 29 year old who hit .233 last year and has minimal major league experience? To me, the answer is simply low risk, cheap right handed power. Like Desmond, Guerrero is a prime change of scenery guy who’s much better suited to play in the AL given his defensive limitations. I can’t imagine a move from Dodgers stadium to the Ballpark will hurt either.
A quick background on Alex Guerrero’s playing career thus far. He began playing professionally in Cuba at age 17. Guerrero became a regular starter at age 19 and averaged .312/.397/.553 through his age 24 season in 2011. Over the next 2 seasons, he was limited to 40 AB until he signed with LAD in 2013. He spent the majority of his first professional season with the Dodgers AAA affiliate and hit 17 HR in 285 AB with a line of .333/.373/.621. Why only 285 AB you ask? Well, he missed nearly 2 months while recovering from plastic surgery because Miguel Olivo went Iron Mike on his ear. Yeah, that actually happened.
After a strong showing in AAA, Guerrero moved to the big league club in 2015. He came out of the gates firing last year hitting a silly .423/.429/1.077 in April and .290/.323/.656 through May. Forcing the issue of playing time with his bat, Guerrero’s glove limited his regular ABs the rest of the way as his numbers continued decline throughout the season finishing with a line of .233/.261/.434. Was it frustration with his role or did the league figure him out? I guess that’s the gamble.
Since the Dodgers can’t send Guerrero to the minors, the ABs will remain sporadic as long as he’s there. The price tag is low enough at this point to make him a value with very little risk. As for a role with the Rangers, I like him as an option vs LHP at DH, 1B, and LF. He’s also a reasonable option at 3B if needed, which could be important if Beltre misses any time and Gallo isn’t 100% ready.
While I originally liked Guerrero as an alternative to Desmond, having both could add value to the club this year without a big price tag or commitment. The similarities are there but don’t get me wrong, Desmond is clearly the much safer player with a larger sample. It appears Desmond is a better athlete and “room guy” but both are former middle infielders with power that you aren’t 100% sure what you’re getting defensively. Neither player will ever be an OBP machine but the potential is there for a 20-25 HR bat that could go in the range .260/.300/.500 given a full season of ABs. I can’t guarantee he turns into a Nelson Cruz type of late bloomer but I think the talent is there if given the opportunity. Worst case scenario, he’s Mike Napoli minus the funny shorts.