Most of the focus this week will be on Masahiro Tanaka, as the Japanese pitcher has until Friday at 2 p.m. PT to pick a major league team. We know the , but given the competition for his services it's no sure thing that the right-hander is coming to Los Angeles. A move that is more certain for the Dodgers is the addition of an infielder. are interested
We just don't know who that infielder will be.
Alexander Guerrero was signed to a four-year, $28 million contract and is the favorite to be the regular second baseman, but has been limited with a left hamstring injury during the winter. Dee Gordon seems to have an inside track at a spot on the 25-man roster, with a shot at regular season base duty and at the very least could be a utility man and pinch runner.
But with Guerrero and Gordon really only likely to play second base or shortstop, the club is still lacking a backup third baseman. Juan Uribe had a productive year in 2013 but benefited from regular rest; he has exceeded the 132 games he played in 2013 just once in the last six seasons.
It stands to reason the Dodgers would want an infielder who can fill in when needed at the hot corner. Stephen Drew is still out there, but since he rejected a qualifying offer from Boston the shortstop would cost the Dodgers a first-round pick if they were to sign him. Plus, even with the Dodgers' spend-happy ways, it's unlikely they are in the market for a starting-level player, so we'll focus on potential reserves instead.
Here's a look at who might be on the radar.
We know of the interest in Michael Young, who ended last year with the Dodgers. He hit .314/.321/.392 (16-for-51) in 21 games with the Dodgers in September, then went 1-for-10 in a reserve role in the playoffs. General manager Ned Colletti on Friday confirmed interest in re-signing Young, 37.
Young doesn't rate well defensively at all, below average at all four infield positions by various metrics for several years. In the last five seasons, 447 of his 591 starts in the field (75.6%) have come at third base.
Chone Figgins hasn't played since 2012 after flaming out spectacularly in Seattle, but is on the comeback trail. When he did play, Figgins hit a combined .185/.249/.253 in 147 games combined in 2011-2012. Figgins, 36, held a workout for teams last week in Tampa, and the Dodgers and Rays reportedly contacted his representatives, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
The former infielder/outfielder rates well below average by both Ultimate Zone Rating and Total Zone Rating at every position from third base, where he is above average but has played just 90 games at the position since the start of 2010.
Justin Turner played high school ball at Mayfair High in Lakewood, and won a College World Series at Cal State Fullerton in 2004. The right-hander hit .280/.319/.385 in 86 games for the Mets in 2013, but was non-tendered by New York on Dec. 2.
Turner, 29, rates roughly average to below average around the infield, but at second base he comes in at a woeful -18 runs in defensive runs saved by Baseball Info Solutions and -13.5 runs in UZR, though his only real extended time at the position came in 2011.
Boom Boom back?
Perusing the invaluable free agent tracker at MLB Trade Rumors, there aren't too many enticing names left among infielders, but one who stood out was old friend Wilson Betemit. The infielder suffered a torn PCL in his right knee during spring training and was limited to just 10 plate appearances in 2013. But he did hit .273/.332/.437 with 41 doubles and 20 home runs in 199 games combined in 2011-2012.
Betemit, who played for the Dodgers in 2006-2007, is 32. He rates below average defensively all over the infield by both Total Zone Rating and UZR, especially so at third base, but the switch-hitting Betemit might just be the best hitter among this group of candidates.
Placido Polanco might be the most attractive defensive third baseman remaining on the market, but the 38-year-old has seen a two-year decline in his bat. The extra-base hits have been few and far between in recent years for Polanco, who hit a cumulative .259/.309/.313, a 71 OPS+, in the last two seasons.
You may remember Elliot Johnson as starting in place of the ice-cold Dan Uggla at second base for the Braves in the NLDS. But Johnson went just 1-for-14 against the Dodgers and hit just .209/.255/.283 in 2013 and .218/.273/.319 in his major league career. The switch-hitting Johnson, who turns 30 in March, is more of a second baseman or shortstop, with just 14 career games at third.
Yuniesky Betancourt rates below average all over the infield, at shortstop spectacularly so, and in 2013 hit just .213/.240/.355. The Brewers gave him 46 starts at first base last year. Betancourt hasn't had an on-base percentage above .288 since 2008. Pass.
There you have it. The pickings are mighty slim out there right now.