Why the Dodgers Had to Move Mookie Betts to Shortstop

The Los Angeles Dodgers will be deploying Mookie Betts at shortstop for the foreseeable future. It's a move that makes sense for all parties.

Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers stands on defense against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch.
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 27: Mookie Betts #50 of the Los Angeles Dodgers stands on defense against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch on February 27, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The art of hiding in plain sight is simple, yet difficult to pull off. That’s what makes the Los Angeles Dodgers’ solution to their glaring shortstop hole so intriguing: Mookie Betts has been here this whole time.

By now, you know that Betts has been named the Dodgers’ starting shortstop by manager Dave Roberts as Los Angeles seeks a remedy to fill a position that has eluded them since Trea Turner’s departure after the 2022 season.

Ironic, given how “dangerous and deep” the club’s roster is heading into 2024. Nevertheless, the decision to move Betts has been categorized as “permanent, for now”.

What you might not realize, though, is just how much sense this position swap makes for all parties involved on a number of different levels.

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1. Gavin Lux Hasn’t Earned Back The Dodgers’ Trust at Shortstop

Gavin Lux’s devastating ACL injury prior to the 2023 season was a massive blow both to him and to the Dodgers, who were counting on Lux to be the team’s plan at shortstop post-Trea Turner.

His road to recovery hasn’t come without hitting some speed bumps along the way, however. Specifically, his defense at short this spring has been abysmal, and that hasn’t been a secret to this point.

Most notably, Lux has had the yips, demonstrating a sudden inability to throw the baseball across the diamond to first base.

This is a troubling development for Lux, because has been plagued by throwing issues in the past. That’s at least partly why the Dodgers have played their young infielder at second base since making his big league debut (the other reason being the team’s prior depth at shortstop with Corey Seager and Trea Turner in recent years).

But the reoccurrence of these so-called “yips” has Los Angeles proactively shifting Lux back to second base, where he grades more positively as a defender.

It’s understandable that Lux expressed some disappointment at the Dodgers’ decision to tab Mookie Betts as their shortstop, but as the former told Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, it’s what’s best for the team right now.

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“Obviously, it’s a little disappointing. It’s hard not to (be). [But] We have to move forward. The ultimate goal is to win games. I don’t think either of us cares where it is.”

Gavin Lux

If Lux doesn’t believe he has issues throwing the ball from the shortstop hole, despite his seemingly good range, he’ll have to prove it.

2. Mookie Betts Is a Stronger Option Than Kiké Hernandez, Chris Taylor or Miguel Rojas

Take a guess at the combined fWAR of Kiké Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Miguel Rojas in 2023. If you said 1.2, you’d be correct.

Hernandez was worth -1.3 fWAR in 2023 (albeit injured) between the Red Sox and Dodgers, while Chris Taylor and Miguel Rojas were less than satisfying options at shortstop, leading Los Angeles to acquire Amed Rosario from the Cleveland Guardians at last summer’s trade deadline. He wasn’t much better, finishing with a pedestrian 0.2 fWAR between Cleveland and LA in 2023.

In total, the Dodgers received less than 2 fWAR combined from their shortstops last season, a criminally low figure for a team that still managed 100 wins (but an early exit in the NLDS). Therefore, it stands to reason that Mookie Betts can only improve LA’s shortstop conundrum just on the basis of his stellar 8.3 fWAR alone.

Betts demonstrated his ability to play second base at a high enough level last season when the Dodgers moved him there. He was originally developed as a middle infielder during his time as a Boston Red Sox farmhand, making that transition at least somewhat natural.

Still, Betts had primarily played in the outfield throughout his star-studded Major League career.

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That he made the transition back to his “natural” position as smoothly as he did in 2023 is a testament to his athleticism and appears to be a major reason why the Dodgers evidently felt comfortable enough to shift Betts over to the left side of the infield for the time being.

It’s not just the club that believes in Betts’ ability to handle shortstop, however. The player believes in himself too, as he told fellow infielder Dansby Swanson on his podcast “On Base With Mookie Betts”.

“When I was named the shortstop, that was super special to me… it was a dream come true and one of the coolest moments of my life knowing that I get to do it [play shortstop] again.”

Mookie Betts

Betts hasn’t played shortstop on a consistent basis since he was 18-years-old, yet when you look at their other options, he is clearly the best choice. It’s easy to see why the Dodgers are ready to install Betts as their permanent (yet temporary), shortstop heading into 2024.

Beyond Betts, however, Los Angeles can also benefit from having Chris Taylor platoon with Gavin Lux at second base, along with Kiké Hernandez, who similarly has prior experience at the keystone.

And if the Betts experiment does go poorly? Miguel Rojas is a strong defender (but an extremely light hitter) who can stopgap until the Dodgers acquire a more permanent solution, which leads us to the third point…

3. Mookie Betts Can Step in Capably Until the Dodgers Land Someone Like Willy Adames

All in all, these maneuvers are meant to hold down the fort until Los Angeles can swing a trade and/or sign a full-time shortstop. One name they’re eyeing? The Milwaukee Brewers’ Willy Adames.

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The Brewers have been reluctant to deal Adames, who will reach free agency at the end of the 2024 season. But there’s no denying what kind of upgrade the 28-year-old would bring to the Dodgers both now and going forward.

In 2023, Adames was worth 3.4 fWAR as a shortstop, which would’ve nearly doubled the value Los Angeles received from their in-house options last season. Additionally, he displays solid pop, as he hit 24 home runs in 638 plate appearances.

Combined with a 5.4 UZR and 8 DRS across 1282 innings in the field, Adames is something of a “full package” at the position. That makes it crystal clear to see why the Dodgers covet his services, while also understanding Milwaukee’s desire to retain a quality player at a premium position.

If Los Angeles chooses, they can remain patient and wait for Adames to hit the open market at the conclusion of the season, which would be safe, if not prudent. The Brewers always face long-shot odds to retain any of their players who reach free agency, given the nature of their market size and payroll limitations.

Moreover, the Dodgers won’t be outbid for a player they want; LA demonstrated that concept twice this winter with Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

This is especially pertinent because Adames will be the best available shortstop next winter by a significant margin, with other alternatives consisting of Tim Anderson, Miguel Rojas, Amed Rosario, Paul DeJong, Garrett Hampson and Joey Wendle.

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Things get a little more interesting if the San Diego Padres and Ha-seong Kim don’t exercise their mutual option for 2025, but for now, the Dodgers can’t assume that scenario will be in play.

Additionally, playing Mookie Betts at shortstop, however capable he may be, is a risky proposition given the wear and tear that comes with playing such an involved position.

Do the Dodgers really want Betts playing shortstop everyday in perpetuity?

Likely not, in an ideal world. That places even more importance on the idea of acquiring a shortstop externally, such as Willy Adames.


The Dodgers’ decision to move Mookie Betts to shortstop was bold, but it certainly appears to be a worthwhile gamble on their part.

While Betts isn’t a long-term solution at the position, he’s clearly better than what Los Angeles has otherwise. And on a team with such high expectations going into 2024, every ounce of production matters. That’s especially true when considering the magnitude of the shortstop position: it’s arguably the most important one on the diamond after catcher.

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And who better to trust in this role than a player who exudes belief and a passion to handle its mighty workload?

Moving Betts to shortstop also allows for young players like Gavin Lux to tap into their strengths, while ensuring others like Taylor, Hernandez and Rojas can remain flexible and versatile throughout a long season.

Having backups and utility players on the roster over the course of 162 games is extremely valuable, as the Dodgers will see when injuries inevitably strike their star core.

Los Angeles also knows it needs a truly permanent solution to patch a leaky shortstop hole, which means they won’t push the limits of what Betts can do, either.

Let’s hope this all works out for the best.