Following the 2014 season, the Brewers waived goodbye to several of their key bench contributors. The two biggest names, Rickie Weeks and Mark Reynolds, both left via free agency, leaving the team with few established options to serve as backup infielders. There were several utility players like Emilio Bonifacio or Gordon Beckham available on the open market, but the Brewers were either uninterested or unable to lure either of those players (or any others) to Milwaukee this winter. Heading into Spring Training, GM Doug Melvin was keeping his eyes and ears open for any other options that could have come available. Earlier today, it was reported that Alex Guerrero, who was shopped by the Los Angeles Dodgers throughout the winter, was a player the Brewers expressed interest in this offseason.
Alex Guerrero grew up in Cuba, making his professional debut at age 17 in 2004. He played eight seasons in his home country, hitting .307/.384/.540 with 102 home runs in 2257 plate appearances, playing mostly second base and shortstop. Guerrero defected from Cuba in 2013 and subsequently signed a 4 year, $28 mil contract with the Dodgers on October 22nd, 2013. Guerrero made his major league debut for the Dodgers during last years’ Opening Series in Australia, but was optioned to AAA after just two games and spent most of last season in the minors.
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Guerrero, now 28, was excellent in the minor leagues last season, spending most of his time with the Dodgers’ AAA affiliate. He hit a combined .333/.373/.621 in 308 minor league plate appearances, slugging 17 home runs among his 42 extra base hits. He stole four bases without being caught as well, though did walk in only 4.8% of his plate appearances against a 16.5% strikeout rate. Guerrero’s defense has been a knock against him, but he was a serviceable performer at second base while also appearing at shortstop, third base, and left field last season.
Guerrero was much less impressive during his brief time in the major leagues in 2014, however. He received 13 plate appearances in 11 games, managing only one hit while striking out six times. The Dodgers changed general managers during the offseason, and there was some doubt that Guerrero would be a fit under the new regime. Given the additions of Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, and the rumored pursuit of Cuban free agent Hector Olivera, speculation during the winter was rampant that Guerrero and his hefty salary would either be traded or released during the winter.
Guerrero would have been a solid fit on the Brewers as they stand, as he could have provided some right handed insurance for Scooter Gennett at second base while also serving as a backup around the infield. With the likely retirement of Aramis Ramirez following the 2015 season, Guerrero could have been a strong option to take over at third base next year, as well. Currently, the Brewers have the unproven group of Elian Herrera, Hector Gomez, Luis Sardinas, and Luis Jimenez vying for any available infielder spots on the bench. It’s likely that while Guerrero may not be as strong defensively as any of those players, he has a much stronger ability to make an impact with his bat than anyone of that bunch.
In order for a trade for Guerrero to work, the Dodgers would have likely had include cash in the deal or taken someone like Jonathan Broxton off the Brewers’ hands. Guerrero is owed $6.5 mil this season and $21.5 mil through 2017. The Brewers opened last season with a record payroll nearing $104 mil, and GM Doug Melvin found himself shedding payroll this winter in the Yovani Gallardo deal. The Brewers were in on the high priced Jonathan Papelbon this winter as well, until monetary issues and an unwillingness to part with a top prospect nixed the deal for Milwaukee.
In the end, it appears that Guerrero has simply played his way into the Dodgers’ future plans with a strong showing this spring. Guerrero does have a right to refuse a minor league assignment in his deal, and he has put up a strong .344/.364/.531 line so far in 33 plate appearances this spring. The Dodgers themselves face some questions about their infield beyond the 2015 season, and it seems likely that Alex Guerrero will now get a chance to show he can be a major league contributor in Los Angeles.
The Brewers, meanwhile, still have some competition for their bench. Luis Jimenez looks like a lock to make the team based on his ability at third base and lack of options, but Gomez, Sardinas, Matt Clark, Shane Peterson, and Logan Schafer are still competing for the final two bench spots.
The Milwaukee Brewers will open their season on April 6th, with Kyle Lohse taking the mound against the Colorado Rockies.