Mookie Betts now the temporary permanent SS, as Gavin Lux’s runway was left unfinished

If you hadn’t heard the news by now, the Dodgers are replacing Gavin Lux at shortstop with Mookie Betts, as the two players are essentially trading positions.

I suppose we should’ve known something like this was coming after Dave Roberts of all people started to hedge on Lux, because he will never give even negative-sounding quotes about his players unless something is happening, but all this really means is that the Dodgers have been watching the Spring Training games.

Things were not going well with Lux, even on plays he ended up getting outs on, so they decided to make the change sooner than later, probably with hopes that Mookie could get settled in time for the season.

Of course, for things to look so terrible after just a handful of games that they pulled the plug on something they were adamant would work — despite it being highlighted as a super team’s potential weakness all off-season — it’s hard to say that result is anything but a disaster.

Regardless, Mookie at shortstop it is. So how might that work out? Probably passably, which is what the Dodgers were looking for out of Lux.

Last year, in an emergency role, Mookie played 16 games and 98 innings at short for the first time in his MLB career. Statistically, he was neutral by DRS, -1 by UZR, and -2 by OAA, and by the eye test he looked dependable with flashes of greatness, even if he too struggled with throwing at times. That is to say that it’s not necessarily going to be a perfect solution, but Mookie having to play short to begin with makes that a bit self-evident.

If I had to project Mookie at short, I’d probably have him around fringe-average with hopes for better after he gets more reps there, but it’s not an ideal situation since he spent all off-season preparing to take over long-term at second base.


As far as the bigger picture goes, as Lucien Kisch pointed out, the Dodgers should be fine.

So to answer our initial question, should we be concerned about the Dodgers’ infield defense? I would say yes (because it projects to be really bad), but also not really (because the bottom-line impact on the standings should be relatively minimal). The infield defense was rough last year, and an aging Muncy, plus Lux taking over for Rojas at short, plus the potential for Betts having a tougher readjustment to full-time infield duty than anticipated creates the potential for it to be significantly more ugly in 2024. But ultimately this is a small blemish on an excellent roster.

That was written well before this switch, but the tenets are the same. Basically, there’s never been a time when the infield defense has mattered less in terms of balls in play on the ground, so their mess on the dirt shouldn’t derail them over a 162-game sample.

No arguments there, but my concern comes in October, where every out matters and this defense may cost them dearly if they find themselves in a lot of tight games (and they likely will).

Still, it’s March and the Dodgers have all year to work their way through this issue.

Should this new alignment of Mookie at short and Lux at second also not work out, and it got off to a rough start today (see above), the Dodgers could pursue options like the ever-discussed Willy Adames or even somebody like Ha-Seong Kim in a trade (moving Mookie back to second base and/or right field). Meanwhile, if Lux is unplayable in the field due to the yips or whatever else, then the Dodgers could end up giving Miguel Vargas another shot or simply playing utility options Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor more than they anticipated. Worst comes to worst, they could simply start Miguel Rojas at short, take the offensive dip for the time being, and move Mookie back to second again as was always planned.

Regardless of how things shake out, the position swap between Mookie and Lux seems like the pragmatic move for the time being, and hopefully it works out for both of them as the Dodgers are in their best alignment when Lux is in the lineup. While all of this happening already is definitely a problem, it’s also not worth inciting panic over unless this is still their situation going into October. Of course it should be monitored, and it will be on a team without a ton of flaws, but there’s also plenty of options available and time to figure it out.

About Chad Moriyama

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"A highly rational Internet troll." - Los Angeles Times