Dodgers could trade an infielder for a starter


SAN FRANCISCO -- Alex Guerrero gave an honest scouting report on Hector Olivera, the fellow Cuban who could one day usher him out of town.

Guerrero said he has known Olivera for years. They were two of the best second basemen in the Cuban league before they both left their country and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"He's a good hitter, hits for average. I would say he should hit 12 to 18 home runs a year, in that range. He's versatile. Fast," Guerrero said in Spanish.

Fast, like Yasiel Puig fast?

"No," Guerrero said. "Less so."

And the $62.5 million question: Can he play third base?

"We'll have to see," Guerrero said. "I think he's a very versatile ball player, but we'd have to see him here at the major league level. It's different."

There is a touch of irony in Guerrero discussing a high-priced Cuban player being asked to switch positions in mid-career. Guerrero just lived that movie, signing for $28 million in 2014 and being forced to learn third base this spring after the Dodgers landed second baseman Howie Kendrick and decided Guerrero couldn't play the position well enough. Now, the latest Cuban quick fix, Olivera, could one day displace the previous one.

After finalizing his contract before their 2-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants Tuesday, the Dodgers described Olivera's bat with terms such as "impact" and "major-league-ready," which sounds nice except for the fact that Guerrero's bat certainly looks similar judging by his .328 batting average and .687 slugging percentage, as does Justin Turner's judging by his repetition of a breakout 2014, as does Kendrick's, as does Adrian Gonzalez's.

Jimmy Rollins has struggled, but the Dodgers aren't going to use either of these guys as their shortstop. Plus, their top prospect, Corey Seager, looks as if he has designs on that spot before long.

So, the Dodgers' infield is stuffed tight with talent for a while. They're loading up on all these groceries and finding the refrigerator is full. It's pretty easy to see where this is going. It's like watching a car race in slow motion as it goes into the final turn.

The same day the Dodgers finalized Olivera's deal, they admitted Hyun-Jin Ryu is contemplating shoulder surgery that quite possibly could end his season. What does one have to do with the other? Nothing other than that the Dodgers' glut of infielders looks like their clearest path to fix a dearth of starting pitchers. Even if Ryu holds off surgery for now -- and it seems like that ship has sailed -- he's a long shot to pitch this season. So, the Dodgers' top-shelf starting pitching depth is down by 40 percent. Brandon McCarthy already had his season-ending surgery.

Yes, Carlos Frias has been impressive. In fact, after he masterfully mixed a changeup and curveball in with his high-90s fastball to hold the Giants to one run over seven innings, he looks like a guy forcing an opportunity for himself. If he can continue to throw a four-pitch arsenal like this, the Dodgers would be foolish not to find out what he's capable of becoming.

"I think I'm getting better each start," Frias said. "I'm getting more confident on the mound. You try to be consistent and help the team win."

But that still leaves one open spot in the rotation.

Mike Bolsinger has given the Dodgers three good fill-in starts and Brandon Beachy just might be able to buck the odds after his second Tommy John surgery and pitch for the Dodgers this season. Who knows, maybe Pablo Fernandez, the other Cuban the Dodgers signed Tuesday, will be able to make the leap from Cuba to the U.S. and from relieving to starting to fill a rotation spot.

But none of those options are particularly bankable. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman's preference is to work in the shadows, but he is making little effort to conceal the team's approach to this July's trade season: The Dodgers will turn over every leaf for a starting pitcher.

"From where we sit right now, if we can add an arm, that would certainly be helpful," Friedman said.

Presuming Olivera's three-to-four-week timetable for reaching the big leagues is realistic and Kendrick stays healthy, the Dodgers could have Olivera, Guerrero and Turner -- perhaps three of the team's six or seven best hitters -- all jostling for playing time at one position and Uribe left out. That's not the worst scenario in the world, necessarily. The current three-headed third base platoon has actually worked quite well in the short term, with Dodgers third basemen collectively leading the National League with a .904 OPS.

It's just not the most efficient allocation of resources, which is why Friedman and his team figure to dangle at least one or two of those players -- Guerrero will probably draw the most interest and Uribe is probably the most palatable to move -- as part of the push to land a starting pitcher.

One of the reporters from MLBTradeRumors.com actually was on the phone for Friedman's conference call and asked him whether the accumulation of infielders could help him make a move as the deadline approaches.

"Sure," Friedman said. "Having as many good players as possible not only helps you in constructing your own roster, but allows you the opportunity to have more good players to talk about with other teams."

Now all the Dodgers have to do is find a team that needs a young infielder to build around and has too many starting pitchers, or maybe a bad team with one or two too many expensive pitchers. There are always matches for teams who have commodities to deal, and the Dodgers figure to be in demand in the coming months.