Los Angeles Times
Friedman playing the long game
In wake of Lux’s injury, Dodgers president will take his time before deciding what to do.
PHOENIX — Andrew Friedman smirked, then tried to find some levity with a sarcastic remark.
“We’re definitely susceptible if we have another injury,” the Dodgers president of baseball operations said Friday, speaking to reporters for the first time since Gavin Lux suffered a torn ACL on Monday.
“So we’ve decided,” Friedman then deadpanned, “we just won’t have another injury for the rest of the year.”
The comment was an obvious joke. But it hinted at wishful thinking the Dodgers have rarely needed in past seasons.
Usually, losing someone such as Lux wouldn’t have been this big of a deal to a Friedman-constructed team.
Yes, the club had high hopes for the 25-year-old shortstop after his breakthrough 2022 performance. But most recent Dodgers rosters would have had enough talent and depth to seamlessly adapt.
This year’s squad isn’t built the same way.
For now, the Dodgers will plug the shortstop role with offseason trade acquisition Miguel Rojas, a talented veteran glove who should stabilize their infield defense.
But after a light-spending offseason in which they lost more talent than they added, the Dodgers’ offense is likely to take a hit without Lux in the lineup, and their depth has been depleted just a few weeks into spring camp.
It’s not that the Dodgers lack major league pedigree. Of the 12 other position players
likely to make the team, five are former All-Stars and two have won MVPs.
Many of them, however, aren’t sure bets to be everyday contributors, which is why the team seemed likely to employ outfield platoons and regular infield rotations.
And after just one injury to Lux, most of those roles might have to expand.
A couple of examples: Chris Taylor and Mookie Betts probably will play more at shortstop and second base, positions that they have experience with but will nonetheless add variables to their seasons.
Trayce Thompson, David Peralta and Jason Heyward — all once expected to play part-time against specific pitching matchups — are seemingly in line for more regular atbats.
There’s also a greater emphasis on Miguel Vargas to succeed defensively at second base, with no natural replacement providing a safety net behind him.
Without Lux’s left-handed bat, the Dodgers could be more susceptible to righthanded pitching, especially in the bottom half of the lineup.
“I think coming into
camp we felt really good about our position-player group and felt, for the most part, it was fairly well locked down with good depth behind it,” Friedman said. “Now we feel less good about it. So we’ll definitely spend a lot more time talking about the various profiles that can fit.”
There is no one “profile” Friedman said would work best, leaving the door open to additions in either the infield or outfield.
The Dodgers have some in-house candidates they like, such as James Outman, Luke Williams and Yonny Hernández.
They will evaluate other external possibilities, as well, though Friedman tempered any expectations that a signing or trade might be imminent.
“Spring training typically isn’t the best time for those types of moves,” he said. “But we’ll have conversations and see what is possible and what is not.”
A few remaining free agents might make sense, such as Jurickson Profar, José Iglesias, Andrelton Simmons or Didi Gregorius, but Friedman said the Dodgers might focus more on the trade market if they can’t find suitable internal replacements. That route, however, provides no easy answers, at least not in the middle of spring when trade prices are at a premium — especially for a team like the Dodgers trying to respond to a major injury.
“It’s not the most natural time to make a trade,” Friedman said, adding: “A lot of ambulance chasers came out after [Lux’s] injury.”
The most likely scenario, Friedman indicated, is that the Dodgers do little for now, instead using the start of the season to take stock of their roster before attempting a bigger trade-deadline splash.
The risk there, of course, is the Dodgers could stumble out of the gate and dig themselves an early hole in the standings — similar to what happened in 2018, when injuries to Justin Turner and Corey Seager almost derailed their campaign before the blockbuster deal for Manny Machado and eventual run to a second consecutive World Series appearance.
Friedman tried not to entertain such a scenario Friday.
Sitting on a chair near the bullpens at the Dodgers’ Camelback Ranch facility, he talked up the options his team is considering, optimistic the building blocks of a contender remain in their grasp.
“Obviously, the Lux injury hurts us in multiple ways,” he said. “But … we feel like we have the talent inhouse to put us in a really good position going into July, and then assess that market, and then hopefully put ourselves in the best position to go out and win a World Series.”
And if they don’t have to deal with any more major injuries, he’ll take that too.
They’ve suffered only one loss thus far, and it’s already leaving them with a rare early-season headache.