When I proposed trading Will Smith for Willy Adames in the offseason, it was not a slight against Gavin Lux. I just thought Lux would be better at second base and I had faith in the strength of the Dodger catching core.
From my adventures over the past couple of years, Lux has clearly been a passionate, emotional individual. One of my personal highlights from last year is seeing Lux homer in front of his family in Milwaukee.
And now, within 72 hours of the start of spring training games, the Dodgers' best-laid plans were rent asunder. Rather than relive the video of the injury, which looked absolutely awful at first, second, and third glances, we must distract ourselves by speculating what the Dodgers might do.
I do not think anyone had the Gavin Lux era being this short (we are talking Rylan Bannon/Tony Wolters short) this soon. Yes, it is best for our purposes to think of the injury as a delay of the Gavin Lux era. We all wish Lux a speedy and complete recovery from a torn right ACL and a damaged LCL.
Dave Roberts said this week Miguel Rojas will play a lot more shortstop than previously thought or anticipated, with Chris Taylor picking up the slack. End of story, right?
After all, Willy Adames is off the market (and the Brewers have their upgrade at catcher). I previously floated a way to get the Pirates’ Oneil Cruz (and Bryan Reynolds), which you can look at here, so there’s no need to repeat that suggestion here.
As I warned previously, the market for shortstops gets pretty thin in the upcoming off-season. The figurative cupboard is arguably bare now: Jose Iglesias? Jonathan Villar? Didi Gregorius? Andrelton Simmons?!? With all due respect to these players, if any one of them is the answer to the Dodgers’ question, then clearly the wrong question is being asked.
While scrapping a previous prediction essay, I noticed the initials IKF being floated on Twitter as a possible replacement for Lux. Once I realized that the initial stood for Isiah Kiner-Falefa, I stopped working on a long-form essay that I had been working on to investigate this topic.
Who is Isiah Kiner-Falefa?
He’s played fifty games at catcher AND shortstop in the majors? Wow, that feat is quite impressive. Plus, based on the interview, he seems like a team-first guy who wants to win, in New York no less.
I wondered why the Yankees would want to part with IKF and then I saw that he’s a “defensive specialist,” which is code for not having a bat. Per MLB Trade Rumors, the Yankees acquired Kiner-Falefa as a placeholder for 2022 while Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe, the prime candidates to be the “shortstop of the future in the Bronx” developed in the minors. Kiner-Falefa was a defensive whiz with 10 Defensive Runs saved in 2022, helping result in the lowest runs allowed per game in the Bronx since 1981.
Kiner-Falefa had a slash line of .261/.314/.327 with a wRC+ of 85, which is 15 percent below league average but on par with his career’s average for offensive production. Kiner-Falefa was a candidate for being non-tendered in the offseason before he agreed to a one-year, $6 million deal.
Frankly, the Dodgers already have a defensive specialist in Miguel Rojas, who has even been extended, with a club option for 2025. Unless the Dodgers want to have Kiner-Falefa at short and Rojas at second and just lean into trying to have a bunch of 2-1 / 1-0 games all year long, acquiring Kiner-Falefa would presumably be a panic move.
But you clicked on this essay, so I have to make a proposal to acquire him.
In the grand tradition of these essays, I propose the following in the style of The Godfather, Part 2, the Dodgers just buy him or throw in a choice of 2021 roster filler: Jorbit Vivas or Eddys Leonard.
- Dodgers get SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
- Yankees get Cash Considerations and a Player to be named later. (Jorbit Vivas/Eddys Leonard).
I know, it’s not a terribly likely or exciting proposal, and I didn’t even have to use Baseball Trade Simulator to do it. I suppose I started this essay with a central premise: help is not likely to come to the
92-win 88-win 2023 Dodgers.
But, Michael, you ask — Can’t the Dodgers just trade for a bigger name — someone who could help immediately? Well, as we covered earlier, the free agent pool is quite empty. And as I have previously written about — there’s likely no one interesting or helpful to sign long-term for 2024, with one notable exception, who is likely extremely not available unless his team falls off the proverbial cliff. I speak of White Sox’s shortstop Tim Anderson.
Tim Anderson is not walking through the doors of Dodger Stadium...until June 13
For the record, I am not predicting a trade. I am pointing out that the White Sox come to Dodger Stadium on June 13-15, 2023.
Even if the White Sox were inclined to trade Anderson (they are not), I think most people are drastically underestimating what it would take to land him. Honestly, I probably should have ended the essay with a “tepid” endorsement of an IKF trade, but I was curious myself.
Even though Anderson was hurt last year, from the start of 2019, he has a .318/.347/.473 slash line in over 1600 plate appearances with a 123 wRC+ and an OPS+ of 122. That’s Trea Turner-like production. So you might be asking yourself why have the White Sox not locked Anderson up for an extension. Injuries.
Not counting the COVID Cup year of ‘20, Anderson just keeps getting hurt, averaging 108 games since 2019 in the full seasons. In ‘20, he only missed 11 games. Still having an elite shortstop that literally shows up literally 67% of the time is probably better than having a poor to middling shortstop 100% of the time.
What would it take to get Anderson, assuming the White Sox were apt to do it, which they are not. You likely will not like what I came up with, mostly because you get to relive the unsuccessful Kimbrel-for-Pollack trade of ‘22: a one-to-one trade involving a fan favorite, sending Tony Gonsolin to Chicago for Anderson.
Even though Anderson cannot seemingly stay on the field, he has plenty of value.
Frankly, the last thing the Dodgers need to be doing is trading from their starting pitching depth. And as someone, who is as big a homer for Gonsolin as I am, even I loathe this proposed trade. But in order to pry Anderson anyway, it will likely take more than what I have proposed to wrench him from the clutches of the southside of Chicago.
Sometimes all you can do is fold
With apologies to the late-Kenny Rogers, sometimes all you can do is fold and try again another day.
Honestly, I get the impulse to try and suggest something when life does something remarkably uncruel to a nice guy like Lux. But there is likely nothing to be done for the Dodgers in 2023 at shortstop but to play it out and let the kids and the reclamation projects do their thing as the show must go on.
Personally, it did feel like the end of an era when The One-Win Team flopped in San Diego last October. And honestly, that’s okay — nothing is permanent. If anything this season is an opportunity; a chance to experience Dodger baseball (for once) without the yoke of expectation.
Now, I do not think that this team will be bad or unwatchable, by any means. If everything goes right, they will be fine and contending for something. Maybe this team will surprise us. by overachieving. For the recent string of success, we, as fans, are firmly in the “house money phase” when it comes to the regular season.
I predict 88 wins, not as an insult, but as an honest expectation of where I see this season going. If you tell me that these Dodgers win anywhere from 85 to 92 games, in the end, I will believe you. If they win more (or the division), I will be surprised and I will tip my hat to Dave Roberts and the front office for pulling this one out of the fire when facing actual adversity for a change. And if the bottom falls out, well, then interesting decisions will have to be made.
But for right now, let us try to save the doom and the gloom for another day.