Who and When – Questions About the Next Dodgers’ Shortstop(s)

In 2011, the Dodgers had two young shortstops about ready for major league duty, Dee Gordon and Justin Sellers. Sellers was a solid defensive player, but with limited offensive skills, while Gordon possessed tremendous speed and more offensive promise. Rafael Furcal, an all-around player with solid defense, a great arm, speed and a measure of power, had done a fine job at short for the Dodgers, when he was able to play. But he had one injury after another, and by mid-2011, the team decided a change was needed, and Furcal was traded to St. Louis. Gordon ended the season as the team’s shortstop, and hit .304 in 56 games. The next season saw his average drop to ,234. Sellers in limited time, hit .203 and then .205 over the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Clearly, help was needed, and in mid-2012, the team traded for Hanley Ramirez.

Ramirez brought three things to the Dodgers: 1) Excellent offense, including power and run production, 2) Terrible defense, and 3) More injuries and missed time. He remained the primary guy at short, whenever he was able to play, through the 2014 season, but the Dodgers did not extend a qualifying offer and now he and the team have parted ways, leaving the team with no established shortstop.
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In the off season following the 2013 season, the Dodgers reached a multi-million dollar deal with star Cuban shortstop Álexander Guerrero, to the tune of $28 M over four years. Guerrero was coming to the Dodgers with the reputation that he, like Ramirez, was a poor shortstop but a potentially dominating hitter. The Dodgers’ plan was to convert him to second base, and he came into 2014 as the team’s first choice to be the starting second baseman.

Not content with one Cuban defector shortstop, in early 2014, the team then also signed Erisbel Arruebarrena, whose reputation was the antithesis of Ramirez and Guerrero – he was a slick-fielding defensive star, with limited offensive potential. LA got him for $25 M over five years.

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Between their play with the Dodgers and in the minors, their reputations played out as expected, with Guerrero a defensive bust at second base, but showing his hitting skills off in the minors with a .333 average and solid power, though he was only one-for-13 for the big club. Arruebarrena also fit the description that he brought along
with him, hitting .195 in 22 major league games, after hitting .259 for in four minor league stops. His defense was, however, magnificent.

And then there is 20-year-old Corey Seager, perhaps the organizations’ number one prospect. Over Single-A and Double-A stops in 2014, Seager batted. .349 with 20 home runs, 97 RBI, and 50 doubles. The jury is out on his ability to play major-league caliber shortstop, and early thoughts were that he would end up at third base.

With all of these prospects at shortstop, the bottom line is, however, that none of them figures to play shortstop for the 2015 Dodgers, and there is no one else in the organization who can, unless some dimwit would think to move Gordon back to short after his all-star season as a second baseman. Thus, there are rumors that the Dodgers are pursuing 33-year-old White Sox shortstop Alexi Ramirez, who is coming off his first all-star selection and who is signed for 2015 at $10 M, with a team option for 2016, at the same salary.

If the team has give up so soon on both Guerrero and Arruebarrena, despite their cost, then the good-hitting and slick fielding Ramirez would seem to be a good fit for a couple of years until Seager is major-league ready, assuming he does figure to play short in the majors.

The Dodgers' shortstop situation is a prime example of how the organization had been run over the first couple of years under
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Guggenheim management, with money being thrown around in an ill-conceived effort to build the best team money can buy. Throwing such sums at Guerrero and Arruebarrena look today like huge mistakes, but while neither seem to be in line now to have any opportunity with the Dodgers, both could still become major league regulars. Guerrero especially has the hitting potential to become a star, but may be limited to becoming a designated hitter. Arruebarrena will play in the majors, his defense guarantees that, but the jury is out if he will ever hit enough to be a regular at short for any team.

And the Dodgers currently have a giant hole at shortstop.

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