Ending months of speculation, the Dodgers have agreed to sign Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero to a 4-year, $28 million contract.
The contract includes a $10 million signing bonus and is expected to be announced by the Dodgers as soon as this afternoon.
Guerrero, 26, gained a reputation as a power hitter in Cuba despite his small frame (listed at 5-10, 200 pounds). He batted .302 in eight national tournaments for Cuba. In his final full season in Cuba (2011-12), he hit .290/.402/.576 with 21 home runs for Las Tunas in Serie Nacional, Cuba’s top league. The following postseason, Guerrero hit .240/.296/.480 with one home run and five RBIs.
It’s unclear how those numbers would translate to Major League Baseball, and some observers have questioned whether he is ready for a full-time major league job. He projects as a second baseman, which doesn’t bode well for Mark Ellis if Guerrero is ready to take over at the position.
The Dodgers hold an option for 2014 on Ellis for $5.75 million. By signing Guerrero, the Dodgers appear more likely to exercise the $1 million buyout in Ellis’ contract.
The 36-year-old Ellis is a lifetime .265/.330/.390 hitter who has carved out an 11-year major-league career with his glove. His .9907 fielding percentage as a second baseman is fifth all-time.
Update (1 p.m.) Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti confirmed that the two sides are close, and offered some insight on the Dodgers’ plans for Guerrero.
“Bob Engle was the lead scout on Alexander and he thinks that he can play, if not right away, then very very soon thereafter,” Colletti said. “He hasn’t played of late, somewhat like Puig and somewhat different than Ryu. But he’s a big-league player. He’s a big league infielder that has versatility to him, as far as positions that he can play. He’s an offensive player.”
Colletti said that he hoped Guerrero will play in one of the Caribbean Winter Leagues. That ought to give the Dodgers a better idea of whether Guerrero, who established residency in Haiti but has been training in the Dominican Republic, is ready to be an everyday second baseman.
For now, it’s hard to say where the Dodgers stand with Ellis, other than that his return is still very possible.
“I think Mark Ellis did a tremendous job here,” Colletti said. “I think Mark Ellis still has value to this organization, with or without Guerrero here.”
However, the GM also said that he would like to see the team get younger in 2014, which would give Guerrero a clear advantage heading into spring training.
Guerrero, who only defected from Cuba earlier this year, has been negotiating with the Dodgers for months. He switched representation to Scott Boras in September. Earlier reports that Guerrero had signed a five-to-seven-year contract proved premature, though it isn’t clear why.