Punto's exit begins shift in Dodgers' infield look
Versatile veteran signs one-year, $3 million free-agent deal with A's
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Dodgers will miss Nick Punto in the clubhouse as well as on the bench, but to keep him, they wouldn't guarantee the $3 million he got from Oakland on Wednesday, doubling his 2013 salary.
The new in-house backup to Hanley Ramirez at shortstop, by default, becomes Dee Gordon, who is expanding his skill set by playing the outfield in the Dominican Republic Winter League.
Cuban signing Alexander Guerrero is a natural shortstop who is playing both middle-infield positions in the Dominican while Dodgers management decides where he'll end up. Justin Sellers is still on the 40-man roster, although he didn't receive a September callup.
All three fit general manager Ned Colletti's expressed desire to get "younger and more athletic." Punto was a valuable grinder that could also play second base and third base, but he also turned 36 last week and played through numerous nagging injuries.
And marching his way through the system is Corey Seager, the 2012 first-round Draft pick that remains at shortstop even though many scouts believe his size (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) will eventually force him to play third base. Seager, probably the best home-grown position prospect in the organization, is still a couple years away from the big leagues.
Punto's departure is the beginning of what shapes up as a bench to be rebuilt. Michael Young, Jerry Hairston and Skip Schumaker are free agents, as well as starting infielders Mark Ellis and Juan Uribe.
The Dodgers are not expected to bid on second baseman Robinson Cano, but with free agency thin at third base, they will consider moving Ramirez to third base (probably paired with a contract extension) and acquiring a shortstop in a trade. Stephen Drew is considered the best free-agent shortstop available.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.