Dodgers Rumors: Top Free Agent Options Left at Shortstop with Gavin Lux Out for the Year
With the news that Gavin Lux will miss the entire 2023 season with a torn ACL, the Dodgers are now left to figure out their game plan as far as who will start at short for them this year. Lux was finally in line to be the starting shortstop after four years behind Corey Seager and Trea Turner, but the 25-year-old former top prospect will have to wait another year for that.
Los Angeles has internal options, most notably Chris Taylor and Miguel Rojas, and they’re likely to go that route, at least at first. They could also revisit attempts to trade for Willy Adames of the Brewers or Tim Anderson of the White Sox. But there are still a few free agents left on the market, so let’s look at those options.
According to MLB, here are the five shortstops still on the market, with their combined FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement over the past two seasons in parentheses:
- José Iglesias (32, 2.7)
- Alcides Escobar (36, 1.1)
- Andrelton Simmons (33, 0.6)
- Dee Strange-Gordon (35, -0.3)
- Didi Gregorius (33, -1.1)
That’s not a great group. For the record, Rojas’s combined fWAR the last two seasons is 3.3, and Taylor’s is 4.9. But let’s look at the pros and cons of each of these five “options.”
Iglesias used to be an elite defender at short, but he couldn’t hit. Then he became a mediocre defender who hit pretty well, but just for one short season in 2020. The last two years, he’s settled in as a slightly above-average defender who hits better than he did early in his career but is still well below-average with the stick.
Iglesias would only make sense if the Dodgers’ team of hitting coaches thought there was something in his swing they could unlock. But while they sometimes seem like magicians, they can’t just turn a mediocre hitter into a good hitter unless the potential is there. The only vote in his favor would be if LA wanted to go with Rojas at short and bring in Iglesias as the utility infielder, but if you already have Miguel Rojas in the lineup, you probably don’t also want the poor man’s Miguel Rojas, too.
Look, I watch a lot of baseball and try to keep myself abreast of what’s going on, but if you had told me ten minutes ago to write a paragraph about Alcides Escobar, I’m almost positive the first five words would have been “Former big leaguer Alcides Escobar.” But apparently he’s still in the league, having played 119 games over the past four seasons. He was decent for the Nationals in 2021, posting a 105 OPS+ in 349 plate appearances, the only season in his career in which his OPS+ was higher than 96.
His 2022 season was closer to his career numbers, though, as he put up a 58 OPS+ (career mark: 74) in 131 plate appearances. He didn’t play after July 16, and the Nats released him on August 3.
Simmons was one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball history early in his career, and he has a stretch where he was a good enough hitter to be a legitimate star. But his OPS+ over the last five seasons is 68, and his defense is no longer good enough to justify putting him on a baseball field.
Strange-Gordon, who began his big-league career with the Dodgers, has played just 55 games in the last three years, and he’s been above average offensively just once in his career, when he led the league with a .333 batting average in 2015. Dee’s inability to take a walk limits his offensive value and his baserunning value, and while he’s been a solid defensive second baseman at times in his career, the Dodgers originally moved him from shortstop to second because he wasn’t up to the task defensively. If he couldn’t handle short defensively at age 25, it’s unlikely he can do it at 35.
Gregorius had a stretch where he was a very good ballplayer, playing solid defense with good offense. That stretch lasted three or four years (his OPS+ from 2017-20 was 110, but there was a lousy 2019 in the mix). The last two years, Gregorius has posted a 67 OPS+ and played lousy defense at shortstop. There’s a reason he’s at the bottom of the list, and there’s a reason he’s still a free agent. A retirement announcement is a thousand times more likely than the Dodgers signing him.
Yeah, the Dodgers probably won’t be hitting the free-agent market to fill this hole. Internal or trade it is!
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