There’s another Cuban baseball star available, and guess who is supposed to be the front-runner to sign him?
He is infielder Alexander Guerrero, and if that name sounds vaguely familiar it’s because there were premature reports back in July that the Dodgers had signed him to seven-year, $32-million deal.
Guerrero had reportedly defected from Cuba to the Dominican Republic, but the immediate problem was he had not been cleared by the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Now comes word he has been cleared and can sign with any team, depending on the report, either this week or any minute. The Twins and Braves are also reportedly pursuing him.
Since second baseman Mark Ellis is 36 and in the final year of his guaranteed contract (the club holds an option for 2014) and third baseman Juan Uribe is 34 and in the last season of his deal, and with no one quite ready to make the jump from the minors yet, the Dodgers could use another infielder.
And given that the Dodgers have enjoyed such great success in signing Yasiel Puig, maybe you’re all giddy at the Dodgers signing another Cuban defector.
There's reason to at least give the Dodgers pause, however.
Guerrero will turn 27 in December, and if previous reports about his contract are close, that’s not only a lot of money but a long time to give someone unproven in the majors. Puig was 21 when he signed his $42-million deal.
Plus, Guerrero has not played since the 2011 season. He reportedly lacked the “motivation” to play last season after being left off Cuba’s World Cup team, though Cuba tends to leave off players who try to defect. There’s no knowing for certain what’s gone on there. He showed up in the Dominican in January, so he’s also had to sit out this season while waiting clearance.
But if the Dodgers actually have been able to scout him, and believe in him, $32 million is still light years away from what it would cost to sign a Robinson Cano in the off-season.
Guerrero has primarily been a shortstop in Cuba, but most reports peg him as a second baseman in the majors. Still, there has to be some transition time to fully learn a new position.
The one thing the Dodgers have, of course, is money. Until they are confident that the farm system has been restocked, they have shown great willingness to spend to fortify the current roster.
If it’s something of a gamble, their history and current situation, indicates they’ll make it.