LOS ANGELES — Miguel Rojas was back at Dodger Stadium wearing a Dodgers uniform in an official capacity on Saturday for the first time in eight and a half years. His busy day included reintroducing himself at FanFest as well as signing a contract extension with his new old team.
The Dodgers added a guaranteed $6 million onto Rojas’ existing deal, which now includes a $5-million salary for 2024 plus a $5-million club option for 2025 that includes a $1-million buyout.
Rojas will earn $5 million in 2023, which was the final season of a two-year deal signed with the Marlins in October 2021. He was acquired from the Marlins on January 11 in exchange for shortstop Jacob Amaya.
“When I got the news I was coming back to LA, I couldn’t have been happier,” Rojas said Saturday. “I could have been really sad after my time in Miami, and everything Miami means to me and to my family. But when I knew I was coming back to LA, I was just happy to come where everything started for me in the big leagues.
“Now I come here with a different perspective and a different point of view, and I’m looking forward to embracing it.”
Rojas debuted with the Dodgers as a defense-first shortstop who filled in at third base and second base during his rookie season in Los Angeles in 2014. After getting traded to the Marlins that winter, he played all over the infield but has mostly been the regular shortstop in Miami since the middle of 2017.
Now back with the Dodgers, he joins an infield with Freddie Freeman at first base, Max Muncy at third base, and Gavin Lux at shortstop. Rojas, one of the best infield defenders in baseball, will have more of a utility role with Los Angeles, filling in where needed.
“That’s how I started my career. Ten years ago I received an opportunity, and I think my first start was at third base [fact check: true],” Rojas said. “I was a defensive replacement at first base in Miami as well. I gotta say thank you to all my coaches that I had throughout my career that helped me and shaped me that way, because you see how things come full circle.
“I always say I’m going to prepare to play 162 games at shortstop, but if anything happens and they need me to play somewhere else, I’ll be ready to play anywhere.”
Second base will be manned a lot of the time by rookie Miguel Vargas, who will get a runway for playing time because of his bat. Primarily a third baseman in the minors, Vargas has played 28 games professionally at second base.
Rojas has already worked with Vargas on defense this offseason, after Vargas reached out to him. Rojas said he worked with Vargas at shortstop at home in Miami, knowing Vargas would get reps with Dodgers coaches at second.
“I feel like if you can play short, you can play anywhere. That’s my mentality,” Rojas said. “[Vargas] wants to be a good defender, and he’s working hard to be good at second base.”
As for Rojas, who turns 34 in three weeks, he’s coming off two hand surgeries in the last four months. The first was a debridement to remove cartilage in his right wrist on the final day of the regular season (October 5). That injury was suffered on a slide in the first game after the All-Star break, and completely sapped Rojas’ power, hitting .230/.276/.281 with a 61 wRC+ and no home runs in the final two and a half months.
The second procedure for Rojas came in late January, to remove a piece of bone that was lodged between his thumb and index finger, which affected his swing while recovering from the first surgery. Rojas was just cleared by doctors to resume hitting this week.
He took 15 swings off of a tee Friday, then three times that many on Saturday morning, and will continue the progression at Camelback Ranch in Arizona beginning Monday. How that affects his readiness in spring training remains to be seen, but Vargas also has sights on playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic in March.
“I know it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get there,” Rojas said. “But if I’m not feeling 100 percent, I’m not going to go. It’s going to be me deciding with the organization what’s the best thing to do.”