On Corey Seager, Trea Turner and the Dodgers’ future at shortstop

When the Dodgers acquired Trea Turner (and Max Scherzer) at the trade deadline, it was a bold move. It also signaled that Corey Seager‘s time with the Dodgers could be limited.

Seager, 27, is set for free agency following the conclusion of the 2021 World Series. He hasn’t had an ideal season, as he missed 2 1/2 months with a fractured hand as a result of a hit-by-pitch. Even before the injury, he wasn’t lighting things up (.265/.361/.422), but he has proven throughout his career what kind of hitter he is. After all, we’re just 9 1/2 months from Seager winning the 2020 NLCS and World Series MVP awards.

Jon Weisman, the godfather of Dodger blogging, wrote about the Seager-Turner conundrum a couple weeks ago and said it seemed the only realistic way the Dodgers could retain Seager after the season is if the National League adopted the designated hitter.

“But in the wake of the exciting reports Thursday about the Dodgers’ apparent acquisition of Max Scherzer and Trea Turner — reports that others are covering at length — I have a more selfish reason to want the DH to arrive in the NL by 2022. It might be the only way Corey Seager returns to the Dodgers. Presumably, once he arrives in Los Angeles and is un-sidelined by covid, Trea Turner will primarily play second base for the Dodgers, with Seager returning from the injured list within the next week to shortstop. Any other approach would be too disruptive. Arguably, the best defensive alignment for the new-look Dodgers might be with Seager at third base, Trea Turner at shortstop, Max Muncy at second base and Justin Turner at first, but that would be quite an earthquake to self-generate two months before the postseason.”

No lies detected.

Turner, 28, is a free agent after the 2022 season, and you can bet he wants to maximize his free-agent value; meaning, he’ll want to play shortstop and not second base in ’22. He’s a much better defensive shortstop than Seager and, as we’ve already seen, has game-changing speed.

Smooth.

So, the Dodgers are going to have a decision to make in the near future:

  1. Re-sign Seager to play 3B for ’22, with Justin Turner sliding to the DH spot and Trea at SS
  2. Re-sign Seager to play 3B for ’22, let Trea walk, move Seager back to SS in ’23
  3. Let Seager walk, play Trea at shortstop
  4. Let Trea walk after ’22, figure out another SS solution

If Seager is cool with playing third base and the DH comes to the NL (which is all but assured), then this isn’t as big a problem as it may seem. I mean, the Dodgers are going to have to pay incredible amounts of money to make this happen, but they can comfortably afford it.

If they let Seager walk, don’t bring back Chris Taylor and don’t re-sign/extend Turner, then shortstop becomes a big issue come winter 2022. Gavin Lux still exists, but his defense at shortstop isn’t good enough to be the long-term solution. The Dodgers have Jacob Amaya in the minors, but he has taken a bit of a step back this season. Their next-best shortstop prospects (Wilman Diaz, Eddys Leonard, Leonel Valera) are all in A-ball or lower and can’t be counted on at this stage.

The upcoming free-agent markets are somewhat intriguing, but that also comes with a lot of moving parts.

If they don’t retain Turner, then maybe a guy like Marcus Semien makes sense. He’s having a career-year for the Blue Jays playing second base, but he can handle shortstop. Plus, the Dodgers had interest in him this past offseason. He could make up for not having Taylor in ’22, and a Semien/Lux SS/2B combo in 2023 wouldn’t be the worst thing (as long as Lux can hit).

If not that option, maybe Xander Bogaerts could work? He can opt out of his 6-year, $120 million deal that takes him through the 2025 season, after the 2022 season. But if that’s the case, then it’s kind of a similar situation as to what the Dodgers have now — they’re going to have to pay for a premium shortstop, and if they don’t do it with Seager or Turner, they’re just kicking the proverbial can down the road.

There could be trade targets in a couple offseason who make sense, but I’m not going to go into that just yet.

——

The easiest solution is to give Turner all the monies to sign an extension. If they can give Seager almost all the monies to play third base, then the left side of the infield is set for the next 6-8 years. It’s dependent on the DH, but that’s coming. The Dodgers have shown a willingness to pay for premium players either via trade (Mookie Betts, Manny Machado) or in dollars (Betts). If they have both Seager and Turner in the fold long-term, that could be bad news for Cody Bellinger‘s long-term future in LA, but that’s another post for another time.

Ultimately, it matters if Seager and/or Turner want to stay with the Dodgers for, probably, the rest of their playing careers. There’s no way to know that right now. A lot of things can and will happen before the conclusion of the 2022 season (hell, the 2021 season) and this is far from the most important thing right now, but I just really like rosterbating.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.