Sometimes it’s great when you have a picture database going back to 2014, so one can dig out a picture of Miguel Rojas as a Dodger back then, because after a trade with the Marlins he’s reunited with his old team once again.
It’s been … a while.
Rojas will be 34 next year and becomes the obvious candidate to get a bulk of the starts at shortstop for the Dodgers, filling a hole that the team has on their face pretended wasn’t there but knew it needed to be addressed in some capacity. The team has not had a shortstop like Rojas in a while, at least in the sense that’s he’s a glove-first option that leaves a hole in the lineup. Last year, he posted a .236/.283/.323/.605 line for the Marlins, and has only hit somewhat better in his nine-year career with a .260/.314/.358/.672 career slash. He did run into some bad luck with a .258 BABIP, so he could easily regress to something like his career line.
Despite the struggles in the box, Rojas makes a lot of sense due to his defensive prowess. In his career at short, he’s a +36 defender by DRS, +33 by UZR, and +19 by OAA (misses his 2014-15 seasons). Surprisingly, rather than showing signs of age, he posted one of his best defensive years in 2022 with a +15 DRS, +5 UZR, and +10 OAA. If the metrics don’t move you, then the eye test definitely should, as he’s always been a smooth defender with a flair for the dramatic.
As evidenced by the last clip, there’s also some versatility there, as he has played third, first, and second at times, so he could rove as a utility guy if somebody emerges at short. However, the Dodgers probably believe he’ll see the bulk of the time at shortstop and he provides value there in allowing the Dodgers to shift their defense back to a more reasonable alignment. This avoids Gavin Lux being solely relied on to hold down short, a position he struggled to handle in 2021.
In terms of finances, Rojas has just one year remaining on his two-year, $10 million deal with the Marlins and will make $5 million this year, likely putting the Dodgers over the luxury tax for good. As Dustin noted, it doesn’t matter a ton by itself, as unless they were able to unload salary and avoid deadline acquisitions, they were likely going to pass that anyway.
As for the return, Jacob Amaya is a true shortstop with a high baseball IQ, who posted a respectable .261/.369/.427/.795 line last year between AA and AA as a 23-year-old. He was ranked as the #15 prospect by FanGraphs and wasn’t ranked in the Top 22 by Baseball Prospectus, so on the surface the Dodgers won’t miss a prospect of his caliber in their deep system, but he was also not far from getting a shot in the majors in 2023 if anybody faltered enough.
The projections don’t see a ton of gap between him and Rojas, and obviously Amaya has six seasons of control left and would make the minimum for now. However, he likely ends up in more of a utility role, and the margin for error on his production is a huge question mark that a competing team likely couldn’t afford to stomach.
Rojas for Amaya is one of those trades that’s hard to feel great about as a fan in a vacuum, as it’s a potential starting shortstop for the next six years in exchange for a rental whose ceiling is locked in as an average glove-only guy. However, it’s difficult to not trust the Dodger evaluators when they’ve had an extended look at a prospect in their system, and obviously if Amaya ends up as more of a fringe big leaguer then it’s worth being able to lock in their defense for the coming year with Rojas. Not a trade that’s really going to get anybody excited, but one that the Dodgers staff probably appreciates.