There is a lot to unpack here, but first things first, before acknowledging how this move specifically affects the roster build for next year, it’s important to look at what this represents for Betts.
Betts is one of the best players in the sport, and ignoring his bat for a second. The work in the right field over the however many years has been one of the best by any defensive player in the sport.
It wasn’t shocking, but it was somewhat surprising to hear he had demonstrated being quite open to moving around the field for the benefit of the team. Baseball players are creatures of habit, and when you’re the best at a spot, it’s tough to imagine moving off there.
Betts isn’t the same defensive wizard at second base, but he doesn’t have to be, and it would not be shocking at all to see him continue to evolve there in year two and beyond.
Most Dodgers HR at 2B
|HR as 2B
|HR as 2B
The point to be made is that to find such a game-breaking hitter capable of filling that position is a great feat. There are plenty of good second basemen out there, but it’s way easier to find a corner outfielder, and the Dodgers already experienced that last year.
Jason Heyward was able to make a legitimate impact as the primary option in right, facing right-handers, and a big part of that was the flexibility of moving Betts to the infield. A rumored target of the Dodgers in Teoscar Hernández would have a much better fit with the team, knowing Betts would cover second every day.
Heyward was brought back on a one-year deal, and he’ll face ight-handed pitchers. However, there is also a multitude of depth options to pursue in the outfield, whereas at second that’s not quite the case. Ultimately, as much as we can talk about this decision in a vacuum, it’s next to impossible. The Dodgers are going to have Betts at second everyday, in large part because it greatly facilitates improving the rest of the roster.
The decision to have Betts at second base makes sense under the assumption Gavin Lux will be ready to take over shortstop after missing all of 2023 with a knee injury. The Dodgers also have Miguel Rojas in reserve to play wherever needed in the infield. There’s also at least the chance that the Dodgers could acquire Willy Adames as part of a Corbin Burnes trade with the Brewers, as Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic floated Wednesday morning.
But with Betts as the everyday second baseman, the Dodgers’ position-player focus — outside of their main target, Shohei Ohtani, that is — shifts to another complementary outfielder, which should be easier to find than a second baseman.