Having a versatile roster over the last half decade has afforded the Dodgers the ability to move as needed when opportunity strikes, no matter the position.
Last offseason, for instance, the Dodgers pounced when elite hitter Freddie Freeman became available, signing him even though they already had a first baseman in Max Muncy, who instead started 80 games at third base, 25 games at second, and 25 more as designated hitter in 2022.
But a few rumors this offseason don’t make a ton of sense for the Dodgers.
Moving Mookie Betts to second base has been floated, including potentially to make room in right field for Aaron Judge. Mark Feinsand at MLB.com wrote about the possibility back in October.
For one, the Dodgers roster is relatively thin on outfielders at the moment, such that even signing Judge wouldn’t crowd the grass to the point that Betts would need to move to the infield. One of Betts’ greatest strengths is his defense in right field, for which he’s won six Gold Glove Awards. If he has to move anywhere to make room for Judge in right field, Betts in center field makes much more sense, a position in which he started 25 times as recently as 2021.
That matches the total career major league starts for Betts at second base, the position he played when he was drafted in 2011 before switching to the outfield in 2014.
Mookie Betts to 2B in LA?— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 2, 2022
"He's open to it." And with a certain 62-HR RF available in free agency, "we're keeping all options open," Dave Roberts tells me & @dougglanville
on an amazing new Starkville.
Apple https://t.co/gvxeYkE76O pic.twitter.com/zyxqAj9J6M
Betts has stated how much he enjoys playing second base numerous times since joining the Dodgers, though he’s also pointed out that he’s paid to play the outfield. He’s started 11 games at the position over the last three years, often when coming off an injury or as an effort to reduce the wear and tear of running in the outfield.
Manager Dave Roberts was asked about the possibility of Betts playing second base this week on the Starkville podcast, with Jayson Stark and Doug Glanville.
“If he had his choice, yes [he’d be option at second base]. He loves second base. We’ll see. The main thing is his opening and willingness,” Roberts said. “We’re keeping all options open.
“With Mookie, he just feels that he doesn’t want to DH. He doesn’t want off days. So if he can play second base, that’s a break for his body and mind, it keeps it fun and interesting, and he’s a very good player who could play there.”
To me, this sounds like Betts playing second base would only be an occasional occurrence, an indulgence every once in a while to keep a star player happy. Pretty much like we’ve seen over the past three seasons. I don’t think there’s much more to it than that, but who am I to Judge?
Another rumor floated this week was by Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic on Thursday, in one of his “what I’m hearing” columns that have become prevalent during the hot stove season. From Rosenthal, whose premise was the Dodgers keeping all options open, such that they could move in any one of several directions as needed:
One possible scenario: Trade for Brewers second baseman Kolten Wong, a player the Dodgers like, according to major-league sources. Sign one of the big four free-agent shortstops. Play Gavin Lux at third.
There’s a lot going on in that one paragraph, which makes a lot of sense for definitely one and possibly two sentences. But it’s third that trips me up here, in more ways than one.
Wong would be a perfectly find addition, an above-average hitter who’s played solid defense at second base for a decade, though his metrics in the field dipped a bit in 2022. Wong is making $10 million in 2023, perhaps pricing himself out of a Brewers team that this offseason already traded Hunter Renfroe and let Brent Suter go on waivers, both free agents to be, like Wong.
Wong at second base would mean Lux would need to play elsewhere to remain in the lineup, and since he was drafted as a shortstop and played shortstop in the minors that could be a natural fit for a Dodgers team that otherwise doesn’t have a regular shortstop at the moment. But that would require faith in Lux at shortstop, which I can’t say I share at the moment. He found his footing at second base in 2022 and thrived at the plate. The best version of the Dodgers probably has Lux still at second base.
Which makes the idea of him moving to third base more baffling, for a few reasons. For one, the arm strength questions for Lux at shortstop remain at the hot corner. But they also have Muncy to play third, as well as Miguel Vargas, who figures to see time at third, designated hitter, and maybe left field in 2023.
Also on the Starkville podcast, Roberts talked about how high the team is on Vargas, using a familiar term of the last few years.
“Miguel Vargas is somebody who is going to play for us next year a lot, whether he breaks with us or not,” Roberts said. “He’s a homegrown guy, top prospect who needs a look, needs a runway, so we’re going to do that for him.”
I wouldn’t mind adding Wong as a depth piece, but if the Dodgers are talking with the Brewers it might make more sense to inquire on a pair of arbitration-eligible infielders who have played shortstop. Willy Adames hit 31 home runs last year and has two years of arbitration remaining. Just ask our Michael Elizondo, who had an interesting trade idea to bring Adames to Los Angeles. Luis Urías in the majors has played almost as much shortstop as third base, and has also played quite a bit of second base as well. He has three arbitration years left. MLB Trade Rumors salary arbitration projections have Adames making $9.2 million in 2023 (which likely makes him more tradable) and Urías at $4.3 million.
Yes, the Dodgers have several options to add to the roster, and the flexibility to help them improve. But it doesn’t mean they need to tie themselves into knots.