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The Dodgers Can’t Buy A Natural Shortstop … Yet

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 27: <> during the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium on July 27, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)
Michael Owens/Getty Images

Of all the fun things one can do with the Los Angeles Dodgers this year, maybe the best is to go down the list of the 29 other starting shortstops to see who would rile you the most if they went out and poached. Because the team that fired down the most money this offseason still finds itself a position short with six days to go before the start of their season.

Gavin Lux's apparently recurring bouts of Sax-Knoblauch Syndrome, in which the act of purposefully and accurately throwing a baseball becomes at best a white-knuckling chore and at worst a running heads-up for folks in the fourth row, is already enough of a concern that the Dodgers took Mookie Betts, whom they had already moved from right field to second base, and moved him to shortstop in hopes that Lux could fix his mind-over-E6 issue.

And when we say "concern," we mean "had a history of this in 2019" and "bounced the first few throws from shortstop this spring," which worried manager Dave Roberts and the free-range wallets upstairs enough to move Lux to the relatively safer ground of second. They have been waiting for Lux to come good on his reams of promising reports, through yips and injuries (or "yipjuries," if you must), and how with all that money tied up in Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Freddie Freeman and Tyler Glasnow and Teoscar Hernandez and Chris Taylor and Max Muncy and yes, Mookie Betts, they are not terribly inclined to wait forever for Lux to sync his arm with Freeman's glove.

Which is why they have left for South Korea with back-up plans that include Bobby Witt Jr. to Tim Anderson and all points in-between, powered in part by this sentence from ESPN's boilerplate "questions we made up to kill an afternoon of work" feature:

"[Miguel] Rojas is a good fallback for a team with a massive payroll, but there is already speculation in other front offices that the Dodgers could make a move for Willy Adames if the Brewers punt on 2024, as some evaluators expect."

Man, if that isn't keeping spring-training hopes alive for everyone, what is?

Adames is a curious but perfectly sensible thought when you consider that he got MVP votes in 2021 for his 25 homers and .886 OPS with Tampa and Milwaukee, and though he still hits home runs his usefulness has plummeted. He is therefore more than just conceivably available, yet just appealing enough to keep Ohtani from looking at his present team and all its riches and still sighing nostalgically for Zach Neto.

Still, if you're a Brewers fan (and to be fair, they did win 92 games and the NL Central a year ago so we know you're out there), you must be irked to learn that you are just considered a feeder for the Great Dodger Leviathan—all because Gavin Lux is flummoxed by a 100-foot throw.

It is true that one fan's burden is another's joy, because the Dodgers who looked so bear-loaded have now given their fans a reason to pay attention to the other teams in the game—as Costcos ripe for the looting. They can watch next week's opening series in South Korea and fantasize about San Diego's Ha-Seong Kim, or wait until their heroes return to the mainland and start plotting fantasy trades based on whoever they're playing in any given series. Their desires can lurch from Masyn Winn (St. Louis) and Nick Ahmed (San Francisco), to waiting a week to shop more up-market with Dansby Swanson (Chicago Cubs) or Carlos Correa (Minnesota). It's commoners' baseball for the team that allegedly has everything, because in the Dodgers' current mindset, "everything" means "everything you've got."

The risks in doing nothing are obvious because (a) Betts is 31 and being asked to play one of the game's most demanding positions after being asked to play one of the game's most demanding positions, and (b) he is one of the game's best players and probably shouldn't be screwed with to such an extreme. Hell, for all the money he's making, Ohtani should play some shortstop. He can flip every ground ball to Betts and set a record for most 6-4-3 groundouts in baseball history—that is, when Betts isn't catching.

It should be mentioned here that the Dodgers are in general a very old team; their average age for their position players is 31 and nine months, and that includes the 26-year-old Lux. Their pitching staff averages out at 31 (young starters, old relievers), and that's without 36-year-old Clayton Kershaw, who is healing from shoulder surgery. They may be frantically shopping for more than just a new Lux, is what we're saying, which means that their fanbase, flushed with a wire-to-wire win in the offseason championship, will never be too far from Roster Resource or their lineup tool of greatest ease. The team that spent like it was buying indestructible statues is never very far from some group of intrepid writers with their ears attuned to the sound of strumming tendons and explaining that with Chris Taylor going on the IL the Dodgers could be in on Ronald Acuna, or Aaron Judge, or Elly De La Cruz. It's never not shopping season.

And remember, this is the team that is partially owned by Todd Boehly, the drunk guy sitting next to the ATM at the bar who bought Chelsea FC less than two years ago and has already spent more than a billion pounds to sit 11th in the Premier League, just ahead of Brewers-level rivals Fulham and Bournemouth. Every day's a cookout when you're using bundles of thousands as charcoal, so Gavin Lux’s leash is even shorter than a mid-spring position change might suggest. Remember, fans of all ages, teams, and financial strata, whether you like it or not, you're all-in the Dodgers now, if only because you never know when your favorite player is going to be one.

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