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Dodgers opt for experience in acquiring Miguel Rojas from Marlins for Jake Amaya

Shortstop swap!

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Miami Marlins v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

In a Dodgers offseason marked by pursuits of glove work at premium positions, they have added a defense-first shortstop, trading for Miguel Rojas of the Marlins in exchange for Jake Amaya, a shortstop ten years his junior, the team announced Wednesday night.

Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic was first to report that a deal was near. Craig Mish of the Miami Herald first reported Amaya’s inclusion in the trade.

Rojas had his worst year at the plate in the last six seasons in 2022, hitting just .236/.283/.323 with a 73 wRC+. Since the start of 2017, Rojas is a .265/.319/.369 with an 89 wRC+, below average at the plate in all years except the truncated 2020 campaign. But strong defense at shortstop netted him 8.7 fWAR during and 10.9 fWAR during that time, making him a reliable, if unspectacular regular.

Last year, Rojas tied with Jeremy Peña of the Astros atop all major league shortstops with 15 Defensive Runs Saved, was second (behind Xander Bogaerts) with a +11 Total Zone Rating, and ranked 10th at the position with 10 Outs Above Average. In 2022, he was a Gold Glove finalist at shortstop in the National League, an award that went to Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson. Rojas was also a Gold Glove finalist in 2020.

Rojas, who turns 34 in February, provides depth among a Dodgers position player group that lacks major league experience. But the question is will Rojas be better than Amaya, the now-24-year-old shortstop who was added to the 40-man roster in November 2021 and hit .261/.369/.427 with 17 home runs, 81 walks, and a 104 wRC+ between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2022.

For what it’s worth, Steamer projects Rojas to hit .260/.314/.358 with a 93 wRC+ and 1.8 WAR in 2023, compared to ZiPS projecting .224/.299/.351 with a 77 OPS+ and 1.2 WAR for Amaya. Baseball Prospectus editor in chief Craig Goldstein tweeted that PECOTA projects Rojas to be “about 20 points better” than Amaya in DRC+.

In addition to the No. 11 ranking in the Dodgers system by Baseball America, Amaya was ranked 15th among Los Angeles prospects by FanGraphs. He was not among the team’s top 23 prospects listed by Baseball Prospectus.

At the very least, Rojas gives the Dodgers someone who they would be more likely to play regularly at shortstop if Gavin Lux doesn’t work out at the position, or if Lux ends up playing more second base.

Rojas has also started 55 games at third base in his career, though just one of those hot-corner starts came in the last four seasons. Rojas has 30 career starts at second base, with his last start at the position in 2018.

If Rojas has a less regular role, he has hit left-handers better in his career, to the tune of .266/.328/.391 with a 96 wRC+ compared to .259/.309/.347 with an 81 wRC+ against righties. Over the last three seasons, Rojas was a .298/.366/.455, 127-wRC+ hitter against southpaws and .241/.293/.343 with a 78 wRC+ against righties. Though Rojas didn’t really hit pitchers of either arm in 2022.

Rojas made his major league debut with the Dodgers in 2014, known more for his defense on the left side of the infield than his bat. Rojas famously made an incredible play at third base to help preserve Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter that June.

The Dodgers dealt Rojas to the Marlins as part of the Dee Gordon trade at the winter meetings in 2014, a seven-player deal that brought, among others, Enrique Hernández and Austin Barnes to Los Angeles. In eight of Rojas’ nine major league seasons, Don Mattingly was his manager.

Rojas will earn $5 million in 2023 in the second season of a two-year contract signed with Miami in October 2021.