Major League Baseball
With Mookie Betts out, here are 16 players the Dodgers could target
Major League Baseball

With Mookie Betts out, here are 16 players the Dodgers could target

Updated Jun. 17, 2024 7:58 p.m. ET

The Dodgers' two gut-wrenching losses to the roster this weekend overshadowed their two wins on the field, as the most expensive pitcher in baseball and the leading National League MVP candidate suffered significant injuries on consecutive days. 

On Saturday, Yoshinobu Yamamoto pitched two innings before departing with a strained rotator cuff. One day later, Mookie Betts fractured his left hand on a 98 mph fastball that ran too far inside and left him writhing on the ground in agony.

The injuries will put $690 million worth of commitments on the shelf for an extended period, a perilous reality made more challenging by the fact that both players were in the midst of trying something new. Yamamoto, 25, was learning how to pitch stateside. Betts, 31, was learning how to play shortstop for the first time in his decorated big-league career. 

The Dodgers were learning, too, with every inning logged. Everything they do now is with October in mind. 


On the bright side, the timing eases some of the sting. Neither injury is expected to require surgery or be season-ending, according to manager Dave Roberts, who tried to strike an optimistic tone regarding the future of his first-place club. 

"We're going to be fine," Roberts said. "We have really good players, and we have to move on."

Still, the injuries necessitate questions for a Dodgers team that just spent more than $1 billion this offseason to revamp the roster coming off back-to-back stunning first-round exits in an effort to win their first World Series title since the shortened 2020 season: Can Yamamoto overcome his shoulder issue in time for the Dodgers to trust him as a playoff starter? Can Betts, who was working tirelessly pregame every night to handle the rigors of shortstop, still get enough reps at the spot for the Dodgers to feel comfortable handing him the reins at the position for an entire postseason?

It's unlikely they'll have the answers before the trade deadline, though they have more options on the mound. Pitching reinforcements are expected to arrive soon with Bobby Miller slated to return to action and Clayton Kershaw set to embark on a rehab assignment this week. The Dodgers might want to wait to see what their returning pitchers have in the tank before striking a deal. 

At shortstop, the Dodgers will have to make a decision before Betts plays again.

Roberts said Betts, who met with a hand specialist Monday, is expected to be sidelined 6-8 weeks. That should give Betts enough time to get reacclimated at shortstop before the playoffs should the Dodgers choose to keep him at the spot, but that’s assuming all goes perfectly to plan. Based on the timeline, the Dodgers aren’t likely to see the current NL leader in wins above replacement on the field again until right at or after the deadline.

Even with Betts healthy, the Dodgers had serious questions about their offensive depth. His absence atop the lineup is exacerbated further by the oblique injury to Max Muncy, who doesn't appear close to a return. 

Still, with Shohei Ohtani, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith and Teoscar Hernández leading the group, the Dodgers should feel relatively comfortable about their eight-game lead in the NL West. But this year isn't about winning the division, as they've done 11 times in the past 12 seasons. 

After signing Ohtani this winter, anything less than a championship would be viewed as a failure. That should necessitate action ahead of the deadline. 

The current options, however, are limited — both in-house and on the trade front. 

How will the Dodgers handle Betts' loss in the short term? 

Miguel Rojas is expected to get the majority of time at shortstop with Kiké Hernández also working in. Rojas is a plus defender and sports a 119 OPS+ in limited action this season, his best mark since the shortened 2020 season, but has hit below league average over his 11-year career. 

The Dodgers envisioned him as a backup and utility option when they signed him last year, but there are few other options at their disposal. Gavin Lux was supposed to occupy the position at the start of the year, but he was bumped to second base after dealing with defensive issues this spring and has a dismal .542 OPS in his first season back from a torn ACL. 

In addition, the Dodgers don't have any top prospects at the position waiting in the wings. The primary option at Triple-A is Trey Sweeney, who was acquired this offseason from the Yankees, but he has a modest .746 OPS at Oklahoma City. Another potential option is Austin Gauthier, a 25-year-old who has logged time across the diamond (including shortstop) while hitting .278/.421/.424 between Double-A and Triple-A. 

For now, the Dodgers will adjust by calling Miguel Vargas back up to play left field against left-handed pitching. Roberts said his initial thought is that Ohtani will move from the No. 2 spot in the lineup to leadoff. 

What does the shortstop market look like? 


Willy Adames was the name to watch as the premier shortstop in a walk year, but Milwaukee is in first place and Adames' success in a bounce-back year makes a trade with the Brewers highly unlikely. 

The Blue Jays' Bo Bichette (1) and the White Sox's Paul DeJong (2) are among the most intriguing potential options for a willing buyer, though neither is a slam-dunk match. 

Bichette, a 26-year-old two-time All-Star who led the league in hits in 2021 and 2022, offers the most upside and star power. Prior to this year, he hit .290 or better with an OPS+ of 121 or better in each of his first five big-league seasons. But this season has been a disaster at the plate. Among shortstops with at least 200 plate appearances this season, only Orlando Arcia has a lower wRC+. 

In addition, Bichette isn't a free agent until 2026, so the cost will be higher to obtain him — that is, if the Blue Jays even decide to make him available. At one game under .500, they might not commit to selling anytime soon. 

That wouldn't be a problem for DeJong's employer. 

As a cheap rental for the worst team in baseball, obtaining him from the White Sox wouldn't cost nearly as much as Bichette. Then again, though DeJong is hitting the ball harder than ever before and sports a .768 OPS — his best tally since his rookie year in 2017 — he also ranks in baseball's bottom 7% in strikeout, walk and whiff rates. DeJong averaged an 86 OPS+ from 2018 to 2023, a number almost identical to Rojas' career mark. 

Would the Dodgers consider that a big enough upgrade to make a move? 

It might be worth a call to the Rays to check in on José Caballero (3), who has a .775 OPS against lefties and offers an element of speed the Dodgers' current options lack, or the Rangers to ask about Josh Smith (4), who doesn't have a clear starting role in Texas when everyone's healthy. Smith leads the Rangers with an .820 OPS and can play all over the infield, making him a useful upgrade as a utility option once Betts returns. 

Boston rookie David Hamilton (5), who has a .786 OPS while filling in as the primary shortstop with Trevor Story out for the year, falls into a similar category and could be expendable if top prospect Marcelo Mayer gets called up before season's end. Pirates rookie Nick Gonzales (6) also offers positional versatility and has been raking since his call-up in May.

However, all four of those players are under team control far beyond this year and play for teams still trying to compete. Recent history would suggest the Dodgers might wait until closer to the deadline, when more teams will present themselves as sellers.

In all likelihood, the Dodgers' sizable lead in the division will afford them the luxury to play it out a bit before paying a premium at the position. 

Let's remember that the Dodgers' trades for Yu Darvish in 2017, Manny Machado in 2018 and Max Scherzer and Trea Turner in 2021 all occurred close to the deadline at the middle or end of July. 

What else could they do? 

Whatever move the Dodgers make, they could use a player who's more than a stopgap — someone who will still be useful in October once Betts returns. 

If they expand their search to all middle infield help, that opens the door for second base options such as the Angels' Luis Rengifo, the Rays' Brandon Lowe, the Reds' Jonathan India or the Rockies' Ryan McMahon (7-10) to step in as potentially greater impact players than the shortstop market can provide. 

The other choice is to leave the middle infield as is and upgrade the offense elsewhere. Even before Betts got hurt, the Dodgers needed lineup depth and an impact outfielder. Swinging a blockbuster deal for Luis Robert Jr. (11) would ease the offensive burden on a lineup missing Betts and would help the Dodgers long after their star shortstop returns. 

The outfield market presents a lot more possibilities across the board, presenting options from teams out of contention (such as the Angels' Taylor Ward or the White Sox's Tommy Pham, 12-13), teams somewhere in the middle (such as the Nationals' Lane Thomas and Jesse Winker, 14-15) and contenders who might be willing to part with excess (such as the Orioles' Cedric Mullins, 16). 

"You've got to move on," Roberts reiterated. "That's what we're going to do."

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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