Major League Baseball
As Corey Seager makes memorable L.A. return, Dodgers still figuring out future at SS
Major League Baseball

As Corey Seager makes memorable L.A. return, Dodgers still figuring out future at SS

Updated Jun. 13, 2024 10:28 a.m. ET

LOS ANGELES — Corey Seager wore a dark blue shirt as he walked into the Dodger Stadium interview room Tuesday afternoon and sat down in front of a blue and white L.A. backdrop, as he had done so many times before, 

The only difference? That shirt now reads "Texas Rangers" on the front.

For the first time since he left the Dodgers after the 2021 season, Seager returned to Dodger Stadium this week for a regular-season series. He had been back before, in 2022 for the All-Star Game, but that game, Seager explained, included every team's fans. This felt different. 

This was the first time he returned to a stadium full of Dodgers fans, the ones who celebrated his many triumphs while watching him grow from a first-round pick in 2012 to the postseason star of a 2020 team that ended the club's 32-year championship drought. Those fans expressed their appreciation again before Tuesday's game, giving Seager a standing ovation after a montage of his accomplishments played on the DodgerVision video boards. 


"This organization kind of raised me," Seager said. "Drafted here, kind of made me the man I am today, taught me the game of baseball, made a lot of friends, made a lot of buddies, had a lot of good times out there. All those memories kind of flash back as you're pulling in."

Soon, however, the warm welcome would turn into a smattering of boos. 

After sitting out of Tuesday's series opener due to a lingering hamstring issue, Seager made his presence felt Wednesday in his official return to Dodger Stadium with a three-run home run off former teammate Walker Buehler that made the difference in a Rangers win and provided a reminder of his prestigious past. 

Seager, who understood the reaction from the conflicted home crowd, was a Rookie of the Year for the Dodgers in 2016 and an All-Star in 2016 and 2017. But it was three years later, during the 2020 pandemic-shortened season, when he cemented his place in franchise lore, winning both National League Championship Series and World Series MVP honors while delivering one of the all-time great postseason performances. 

"I think the best I've ever seen was David Ortiz in 2004," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, "but that ‘20 postseason for Corey was right up there with him." 

Two years later, Seager was off to Texas, leaving a revolving door of temporary solutions at shortstop and back-to-back early playoff exits in his wake. 

The Dodgers expressed interest in keeping him long term but saw the writing on the wall as his contract year progressed. On Tuesday, Seager was asked if he thought his time in Los Angeles was over after he turned down the Dodgers' extension offer in the spring of 2021 or if he was still hoping he could work something out at that point. 

"You're always hopeful," Seager said. He otherwise had little interest in rehashing the past. 

"But that's a long time ago," he continued. "I can't really remember how it went. Sorry, I don't want to go down that path." 

The Dodgers planned for both the present and future at the 2021 deadline when they traded for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. Scherzer was a rental that year, but Turner was under team control for another season. He shifted to second base to finish out the year, playing alongside Seager, then assumed full-time shortstop duties in Los Angeles in 2022 after the Dodgers failed to meet the market price that winter for Seager, who was enticed by the pitch from Rangers general manager Chris Young. 

"Listening to CY's plan and kind of how he thought it would go and the players that they had and how he thought they would develop, he did an extremely good job," Seager recalled. 

Of course, the Rangers' 10-year, $325 million offer didn't hurt, either.  

Texas was coming off a 102-loss season at the time and envisioned Seager and Marcus Semien as the new offensive centerpieces. The Rangers' decision came with considerable risk. 

At 6-foot-4, Seager possesses a bigger frame than the typical shortstop, and he had played in just 307 games over his final four years in Los Angeles, most notably missing time due to Tommy John and hip surgeries in 2018. In addition, his superb 2020 postseason — during which he hit seven home runs between the NLCS and World Series — came after he produced a .390 OPS in the 2019 National League Division Series and before he hit .188 during the 2021 postseason. 

But the Rangers envisioned the upside and were rewarded for their belief. In his second year in Texas, Seager helped turn the club into champions. 

"I don't know if you ever thought it'd be that fast," Seager said. "Just kind of clicked at the right time and got hot in the playoffs, and it turns into that. But that was his plan."

Texas Rangers sound off on what kind of player Corey Seager is

The Dodgers' plan, meanwhile, did not yield the same result. 

Turner was an All-Star in 2022. He won the batting title and became the only Dodgers shortstop ever to log 20 homers, 20 stolen bases, 100 runs and 100 RBIs in a single season. In the midst of his production, he entertained the idea of playing in Los Angeles long term. The Dodgers did not. They never made him a formal extension offer. 

After a shocking first-round exit at the hands of the Padres, they let Turner go to Philadelphia, watching another $300 million shortstop find a new home. 

"I thought they would be on me," Turner said. "They weren't." 

Months after their postseason run fizzled out, the Dodgers' follow-up plans at shortstop did, too. 

Former top prospect Gavin Lux was supposed to be the answer at the position last season, but he tore his ACL in a Cactus League game. Miguel Rojas, who was signed to help in a utility role, stepped into primary duties at the spot. While starting pitching ultimately failed the Dodgers in October, their offense also cratered in a stunning first-round sweep at the hands of the Diamondbacks. 

Seager, meanwhile, returned to the pinnacle. 

The Rangers shortstop joined Reggie Jackson as the only two players to win World Series MVP honors with two different teams. 

"Any time you win, they're fun," Seager said as he reflected on his two championships — one during a 60-game season with cardboard cutouts in the crowd, the other in more typical fashion. "To be at the top is what you're always trying to accomplish, so in a lot of ways there were a lot of similarities. How you get there, things like that, might be different. But in the end, winning is the same."

The Dodgers spent $1.2 billion this offseason trying to recapture that feeling. None of those funds went toward finding a new shortstop. 

This year was supposed to be Lux's second chance, but his spring struggles defensively at the position led to a quick change. For a team typically well-equipped and prepared to handle any possibility, their lack of options and ultimate decision both came as a surprise. They bumped Lux over to second base and gave the shortstop duties to Mookie Betts, who last year split most of his time between the outfield and second base and was initially expected to stick to the latter spot in 2024. 

Prior to logging 13 starts at shortstop last season, Betts had never played an inning at the premium position as a major-leaguer and hadn't manned the spot professionally in a decade. 

Seager, who still keeps in touch with Betts, is one of multiple opposing shortstops who have expressed both awe and amazement at the six-time Gold Glove Award-winning right fielder's dynamism on a baseball field and willingness to learn the position on the fly at the highest level. 

"He's a special player," Seager said. "Everybody knows that. Special athlete. His ability to play all over the place at such a high level and still be able to compete in the batter's box, it's impressive to watch."

To Betts' credit, he has played the position competently through painstaking preparation — including hours of pregame work taking grounders on a nightly basis — and is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season, though advanced metrics are split on his defensive effectiveness. By defensive runs saved, he has been a top-10 player at the position. By outs above average, which takes into account where a defender is positioned and how far he has to go to make a play, he ranks at the bottom

Last month, Betts evaluated his performance so far as "not very good" and "a work in progress" while expressing the difficulty of the challenge. 

"There's no way to really speed it up, and as bad as I want to, as bad as I want to be good at it, it's hard," Betts said. "It's hard for everyone, and I just started doing it, so experience is going to be the only thing that's really going to teach me." 

For now, the Dodgers appear poised to give him every opportunity to learn. Their comfortable division lead affords them that latitude, though it's a precarious and uncertain position — for the remainder of this season and beyond — for a championship contender that recently employed two of the game's top shortstop talents.

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One of those players spent Monday in nearby Manhattan Beach.

Seager used his off day to meet up with Dodgers outfielder Chris Taylor — just one example of the lifelong friendships and bonds Seager and his wife, Mady, have created with his former teammates and their families in Los Angeles. 

In the time since Seager left L.A., Taylor got married and welcomed a baby boy. For Seager, who said it feels strange that he's already in his third season in Texas, it's mostly off the field where he senses how much time has passed. 

For the Dodgers, who have one playoff win since Seager's departure and have seen a different player manning shortstop in each subsequent season, the passage of time might feel more pronounced. 

"He and his representation got a deal that they couldn't refuse, and he and Mady are happy over there," Roberts said. "Obviously, any team is better with Corey Seager." 

Rowan Kavner is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the L.A. Dodgers, LA Clippers and Dallas Cowboys. An LSU grad, Rowan was born in California, grew up in Texas, then moved back to the West Coast in 2014. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.

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