Gavin Lux injury: Miguel Rojas, other options for Dodgers shortly after Lux’s ACL tear after the end of the season

The defending NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers suffered a catastrophic injury on Monday afternoon. Starting shortstop Gavin Lux tore the ACL in his right knee after stumbling on the base paths, the team announced Tuesday. He will miss the entire 2023 season, manager Dave Roberts said.

This is Lux’s injury. He ducked out of the way to throw, stumbled, and his right knee buckled.

Lux, 25, was the Dodgers’ primary second baseman last season and was slated to slide over to shortstop, his natural position, to replace Trea Turner this year. Of course Turner signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as a free agent. With Lux injured, Los Angeles’ shortstop depth chart now looks something like this:

  1. Gavin Lux LHB (out for the entire season with a knee injury)
  2. RHB Miguel Rojas
  3. RHB Chris Taylor (expected to see most of his time in the outfield)
  4. SHB Yonny Hernandez (career .198/.293/.228 hitter in 55 MLB games)

As far as Plan B goes, you could do a lot worse than Rojas and Taylor at shortstop. They are a step down from Lux though, and a significant step down from Turner. Even before Lux’s injuries, FanGraphs projections had the Dodgers about five games behind the San Diego Padres in the NL West. That gap is a little wider now.

What could the Dodgers do to replace Lux at shortstop? Here’s an overview of their options, which are pretty limited at this point in the baseball calendar.

Stay indoors

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The Dodgers will almost certainly do this. Rojas was brought in to provide depth behind Lux ​​and is a viable everyday shortstop thanks to his glove work: 15 runs saved and 10 strikeouts above average in 2022. The bat leaves something to be desired, but Rojas can play short and play it well. The easy, simple move is to plug it in as a Lux replacement.

“What happened to Luxy is unfortunate,” Rojas told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday. “But if that means I’m playing shortstop, that’s what I have to do. I’ve prepared for this opportunity. I’ve got to be ready for it.”

Taylor had a down season in 2022, his worst season since joining the Dodgers in 2017, and struck out in an alarming 35.2 percent of his plate appearances. However, he remains an option on the short list should Los Angeles need him. Hernandez is a second baseman more than a shortstop with good contact skills and basically zero power. It is an emergency option.

Hot prospect Miguel Vargas was already slated to take over second base as Lux shifted to short. He has never played shortstop in his career and is actually a natural third baseman with less than 30 career games at second. His teammate Michael Busch was the prospect as a second baseman and left fielder with no shortstop experience. Both have MLB-ready bats, but neither is a shortstop candidate.

​​​​The Dodgers acquired Rojas over the winter specifically because he can play shortstop and play it well, and with Lux now sidelined long-term, Rojas will almost certainly line up for the to play a position. The transition is clear. Taylor is the backup plan and Hernandez is now third on the depth chart in case of another injury.

Sign a free agent,

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Jurickson Profar is the best player left in free agency, who came up through the minors as a shortstop, but hasn’t played the left side of the infield since 2018. A pair of shoulder surgeries earlier in his career have sapped Profar’s arm strength and he’s now a full-time left fielder. It’s possible that the Dodgers could sign him in hopes of giving Taylor more time in the infield, although that seems unlikely. Profar is not a good fit for the roster due to his current skills.

José Iglesias was the defensive shortstop of the game, but his glove has slipped significantly in recent years (minus-26 defensive runs saved the last two years), and he is no longer an everyday option at the position. Rojas provides better defense and a similar high-contact, low-power bat. Others like Andrelton Simmons and Jonathan Villar don’t move the needle. Free agency offers zero shortstop solutions at this point.

Make a trade

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One name immediately springs to mind: Isiah Kiner-Falefa. The New York Yankees are running a shortstop competition this spring and Kiner-Falefa, the incumbent, is battling top prospects Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe for the job. Peraza impressed with his call-up last September and even started Kiner-Falefa in the postseason.

The Yankees ended all those great free agent shortstops the last two seasons because they believe so much in Peraza and Volpe. Kiner-Falefa was brought in to stand in until the kids are ready and Peraza appears to be ready. That doesn’t mean the Yankees will give away Kiner-Falefa — he’s still a useful depth piece — but I’m sure he’s available.

Other potential shortstop trade candidates include Paul DeJong (St. Louis Cardinals), Josh Smith (Texas Rangers), and Taylor Walls (Tampa Bay Rays). Keep in mind that teams are very familiar with Lux suffering a major injury. If the Dodgers make calls about trading a shortstop, they can expect big asking prices. Teams won’t help Los Angeles out of the kindness of their hearts.

​​​​​​It would be surprising if the Dodgers did anything other than give Rojas the shortstop role right after Lux’s injury. He’s a capable everyday shortstop thanks to his glove, and if they’re not going to start him now, what was the point of giving up a solid prospect (Jacob Amaya) to get him? That is exactly why the Dodgers brought in Rojas.

Now, if Rojas sees his game slip at age 34, then the Dodgers can reevaluate and possibly change the position during the season. There is no reason to do that yet. There are no free agent options and nothing very attractive on the trade market. Rojas is the man in short and the Dodgers won’t make a change until they are convinced he is needed.

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