Who’s gonna play shortstop for the Dodgers in 2023? Here are some options

Since Corey Seager‘s 2015 debut and subsequent move into the starting starting lineup on 2016 for the Dodgers, the shortstop position has been pretty good. Sure, he missed a lot of the 2018 season, but the Dodgers acquired Manny Machado to make up for the deficit. When Trea Turner was acquired at the 2021 trade deadline, shortstop was locked through at least the 2022 season.

Well, we’re now through that season, and the shortstop position — for the first time in a while — has a bit of uncetainty to it. Luckily for the Dodgers, there are plenty of options on the free-agent and trade markets. Let’s take a look at who could be playing short for LA in 2023 (and beyond).

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Free agents (2023 age in parenthesis)

Xander Bogaerts (30)
Carlos Correa (28)
Dansby Swanson (29)
Trea Turner (30)

These are the best free-agent shortstops on the market.

While Bogaerts hasn’t officially opted out of the final three years and $60 million on his current deal, it’s all but a certainty he will. Bogaerts has been one of the most consistent offensive performers at shortstop over the last five seasons. He has hit .300/.373/.507 with a 134 wRC+ since 2018, and his wRC+ has ranged between 129 and 141.

Bogaerts’ bat has never been a question, rather his biggest concern has always been his defense. Aside from the 52 2/3 innings he played at shortstop in 2013, he has never posted a defensive runs saved mark in the positive … until this season. He had 4 DRS in ’22 after averaging nearly -7 DRS from 2014-21. His outs above average (5) was in the black for just the second time in his career (+2 in 2017). Did he make some adjustments and become an above-average defensive shortstop at age 29, or is it a 1-year aberration that are not uncommon to defensive metrics? For that, let’s see what Phil Neuffer at Over the Monster had to say about Bogaerts’ defense.

“For much of his early career, Bogaerts played deeper in the hole than he does now, meaning he was further from second base. In 2022, he is playing just about as close to second as ever while playing a few steps back, on average, than he did in 2020 and 2021. Moving over might be helping him shore up plays up the middle, as Bogaerts is one out above average when going laterally toward first base, while he is two outs below average going toward third. He has marks of -18 and -25, respectively, in those stats for his career. Aside from where he is starting each play, Bogaerts is also successfully converting a higher percentage of what Inside Edge categorizes as routine plays into outs (97.8 percent in 2022 vs. 97.2 percent for his career), but the real difference has been on the more extreme end of the scale, with Bogaerts converting 5.3 percent of what Inside Edge characterizes as remote plays into outs. That’s a stunning number because before this season, Bogaerts had never made a remote play before, with his career rate sitting at 0.7 percent even with this year’s surge. Much like turnovers in football, it would be foolish to put too much trust into this kind of mark as predictive of future success, but it is at least an interesting development, especially as his rates for all other types of plays (likely, even, and unlikely) have all gone down from last year.”

So, perhaps it ends up being more sustainable than previously thought. If the Dodgers and their coaching staff could make Seager an average (by metrics) shortstop, they should be able to at least get Bogaerts to sustain this level of defensive production.

Next up is Correa, who has a special place in Dodger fans’ hearts. He is infamous as being part of the 2017 Astros cheating scandal, and, somewhat surprisingly, has shown some of the most remorse of any player and coach involved in said scandal.

Correa signed a 3-year, $105.3 million deal with the Twins last offseason that included an opt-out after the first year, which he has already said he will exercise. He hit .291/.366/.467 with a 140 wRC+ for the Twins in 2022, which was his second consecutive strong season after a poor 2020 (94 wRC+). All things being equal, Correa looks like the best option for the Andrew Friedman … knowing his type. It’s going to take a hefty financial and lengthy commitment, but Correa has the best blend of offense and defense of the free-agent shortstops, and he’s the youngest of the four, which we know is something the Dodgers consider when they look into signing a free agent.

Swanson is coming off a career-year in 2022 — both at the plate and in the field. He hit .277/.329/.447 with a 116 wRC+. On defense, he was the league’s best with 20 OAA (seven ahead of second-place Francisco Lindor) and was No. 8 in DRS with nine. He also swiped 18 bases. Could the Dodgers swoop in and sign another Atlanta Brave this winter? It remains to be seen. But of the four, his contract figures to be the “cheapest,” but will still, easily, be a 9-figure deal.

We’ve come to know what Turner is over the last season-and-a-half. He’s a streak hitter (especially in the power department), is among the fastest players in the game (even if he doesn’t get a chance to steal as many bases) and is an average-at-best defender at shortstop. Oh, and he hasn’t had a great showing in the postseason. Yes, he got off to a nice start in the first two games of the NLDS, but he still hit just .246/.268/.391 in 71 postseason plate appearances for LA over the last two seasons.

There are some questions about how his game is going to age. He’ll, almost certainly, lose some speed and the defense doesn’t project to get any better. But he’s still a solid offensive performer after hitting .298/.343/.466 with a 128 wRC+ in 2022.

There are also questions about where he wants to play. The rumor is he’d prefer the East Coast, and that isn’t the first time a player has preferred to play most of his games in a specific region (Andrew Miller). If that’s true, it’s going to take an incredible financial commitment for the Dodgers to retain Turner’s services. It’ll be something to monitor as things progress this winter.

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Trade targets

Willy Adames (27)
Tim Anderson (30)
Paul DeJong (29)
Isiah Kiner-Falefa (28)
Gleyber Torres (26)

Since striking out looking against Julio Urias to clinch the 2020 World Series for the Dodgers, Adames has had quite a strong couple seasons. He was traded to the Brewers early in 2021 and has been really good for Milwaukee. As a Brewer, he has a .256/.325/.483 batting line with a 120 wRC+. What’s most impressive is his power, as he has a .226 ISO as part of the Brew Crew. That power mark puts him in the company of guys like Teoscar Hernandez and Eugenio Suarez over the last two years. He’s also one of the stronger defenders at shortstop, with a 9 DRS and 10 OAA in 2022.

So, why would the Brewers trade Adames? First off, they’re pretty aggressive with their trades — it’s how they’ve been so successful over the last half-decade. Second, Adames a free agent after the 2024 season, and he could be in line for a big payday. While they’ve committed long-term to Christian Yelich (not looking great currently), they also have some pitchers to try to lock-up long-term (Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff), so they might be willing to move Adames now and save some of that money for the arms.

Anderson has a $12.5 million option the White Sox will easily pick up (and one for 2024 as well), so he won’t be a free agent until after the ’24 season. He’s coming off an injury-plagued 2022 season that still saw him hit .301 with a .339 OBP, but his power was sapped. He slugged just .395 and had a sub-.100 ISO (.093). Prior to ’22, he had been one of the better offensive shortstops in the game. His defense also suffered in ’22 (-7 DRS, -2 OAA), but he had been solidly average over the last few years. The White Sox — the most .500 team ever — could look to make a move if it means improving in other areas.

DeJong is a bit of an outlier to include here. Since signing a 6-year, $26 million extension in 2018, he has been up-and-down … literally. In 2018-19, he hit .237/.316/.440 with a 102 wRC+. With his defense (30 DRS, 2 OAA), that’s plenty acceptable. He was basically Adames-lite. But since the start of the 2020 season, he has been, in a word, bad: .196/.280/.351 with a 77 wRC+ and spent parts of the last two seasons in Triple-A. His defense never slipped, though. He has 11 DRS and 9 OAA over the last two seasons.

The thought process here is DeJong wouldn’t be the centerpiece of a deal. A guy who might really intrigue Friedman is Jack Flaherty. He’s a SoCal native and, despite the injuries, has a pretty high ceiling. He’s set to be a free-agent after next season and the Cardinals might be willing to move on from him if it means strengthening other parts of their team.

If you’re going strictly for defense, Kiner-Falefa is the dude. He has 20 DRS over the last two years (but just -8 OAA) between Texas and New York, and has hit .267/.313/.344 with an 85 wRC+. He’s a high-contact hitter (89.8% in 2022) and would definitely give the Dodgers a different look at the plate. He’d be the low-ceiling option.

Torres is interestingly inconsistent since being acquired for Aroldis Chapman in 2016. In 2019, he looked like a franchise cornerstone (.278/.337/.535, 125 wRC+, 38 HR), but his next two seasons were quite average — .255.337/.366, 97 wRC+ and 12 total home runs. He had a bit of a bounce-back ’22 at the dish (.257/.310/.451, 115 wRC+, 24 HR), but even that came with a slow start. The biggest concern, however, is his defense. He was -10 DRS and -9 OAA in 2021 in just 915 2/3 innings at shortstop. In fact, he has never posted a DRS or OAA in the black. He played mostly second base where, unsurprisingly, he performed well (9 DRS, 0 OAA). It’s not as extreme as Turner, but kind of in the same mold.

What plays in his favor — or, at least, would be attractive to Friedman — is the fact he’s still young. With Oswaldo Peraza and Anthony Volpe on deck for the Yankees up the middle, they could move Torres now and get some help elsewhere.

Internal

Gavin Lux (25)
Chris Taylor (32)

Lux isn’t a shortstop. Period. Sure, he can play there in a pinch, but we know his defensive limitations. Hell, he even has issues at second base (though, seemed to get better as the season went on). If Lux is the Dodgers’ starting shorstop in 2023, then something has gone wrong over the winter.

Taylor is in a similar boat as Lux. He isn’t a full-time shortstop at the MLB level, but he can handle it in a pinch. If he’s platooning with someone there, then that’s fine. But if he’s expected to play 150 games there, then that’s a problem.

The bottom line is, the Dodgers don’t have any good internal options (if you don’t count Turner). So, the starting shortstop is probably coming from outside the organization.

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Here’s how I’d rank the non-internal players above, taking into account acquisition cost, age, contract, etc.

  1. Correa
  2. Bogaerts
  3. Anderson
  4. Adames
  5. Turner
  6. Swanson
  7. Torres
  8. DeJong
  9. Kiner-Falefa

This is going to piss off a lot of you — and I’m having a hard time coming to terms with it — but Correa is the best option. He’s going to cost a lot of money, but the Dodgers have plenty of that. He brings a different look at the position than they’ve had in a long time, and he’s a really good baseball player (even without the banging trash cans). Bogaerts is a close second, especially if the defensive improvement is sustainable. I’ve always had a soft spot for Anderson and he seems like the kind of player Friedman would target in a situation like this. Same goes for Adames. Swanson probably isn’t leaving Atlanta (although, Freddie Freeman wasn’t, either) and Torres would be a big-time wild card. If DeJong brought Flaherty, then I’d probably rank him higher, while Kiner-Falefa would be the last resort before having to resort to internal options.

Stay tuned for more rosterbation throughout the winter.

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.