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With Mookie Betts’ Move to Second, Dodgers Infield Risks Coming Up Short

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Before the high-tide news of Shohei Ohtani’s free agency decision washed it away like a sandcastle on the beach, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made some waves with his comments to the media during the Winter Meetings. While his breaking of the omerta regarding the team’s pursuit of Ohtani received most of the attention — in part because the rest of the narrative pickings out of Nashville were so slim — Roberts divulged the team’s plans regarding their middle infield situation by announcing that Mookie Betts would be a full-time second baseman in 2024. This came on the heels of GM Brandon Gomes stating that the Dodgers plan for former top prospect Gavin Lux to be their everyday shortstop.

Betts, who turned 31 on October 7, is fresh off an MVP-caliber season in which he set a career high with 39 homers, posted a 163 wRC+ (his highest since his 2018 AL MVP-wining campaign) and finished tied with Ronald Acuña Jr. for the major league lead with 8.3 WAR. Betts also split his time between right field, where he’s won six Gold Gloves (most recently in 2022) and the middle infield. His foray onto the dirt came about because Lux, whom the team planned to shift from second base to shortstop last year in the wake of Trea Turner’s departure, tore his right ACL in late February. Amid a winter of cost-cutting, Lux’s move to shortstop left second base in the hands of 23-year-old rookie Miguel Vargas, with Max Muncy moving to third base to replace the departed Justin Turner, and Chris Taylor in the outfield mix after Cody Bellinger was non-tendered. Lux’s injury left Taylor and light-hitting veteran Miguel Rojas the most viable shortstop options.

Betts mainly played second base in the minors, but in Boston he was blocked by Dustin Pedroia, hence the move to right field. Even filling in for Pedroia after he suffered a season-ending injury in 2014 (Betts’ abbreviated rookie campaign) and spotting there occasionally in subsequent years, he made just 30 major league appearances at the keystone before 2023, including 25 starts; he had seven of the former and five of the latter in both 2021 and ’22 with the Dodgers. In 2023, Roberts quickly put him into the mix, and the rejuvenation of Jason Heyward — whom the team signed to a minor-league deal after he was released by the Cubs with one year to go on his eight-year, $184 million contract — gave the Dodgers some additional flexibility. Read the rest of this entry »