By Jonathan Garza Contributor
The Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves without yet another star player as shortstop Corey Seager is set to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right (throwing) elbow and miss the remainder of the season.
The setback is the latest in a series of mishaps for the Dodgers, who are also without third baseman Justin Turner and outfielder Yasiel Puig, who have injured their wrist and hip, respectively.
The team currently sits in fourth place with a record of 12-16, eight games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks for the National League Western Division top spot, and four-and-a-half games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates for the second Wildcard spot.
According to the Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball (runs scored squared, divided by the sum of runs scored squared and runs allowed squared), the team’s run differential of plus-nine runs has it on pace for a win percentage of .535, or an 86-win season — 18 wins fewer than their World Series run last season.
That isn’t going to sit well with Dodger fans — so what should the team do to counteract this lackluster start?
Option No. 1: The Dodgers stand pat and promote from within
The simplest option is for the team to take a familiar stance and allow for its stout farm system to flex its muscles and fix the bleeding.
It means that Chris Taylor moves over from center field to shortstop, covering Seager, while Joc Pederson replaces Taylor until Puig returns. Matt Kemp slides over from left field to right, with 21-year-old Alex Verdugo manning left.
It’s unclear how much time Puig will miss, but when he does return, look for him and Kemp to return to their regular positions, with Verdugo replacing Pederson at center field.
The piece to look at here is Verdugo, the team’s No. 2-ranked prospect. He’s currently hitting .276/.309/.474 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 19 games with the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate, the Oklahoma City Dodgers. He’s a season removed from hitting .314/.389/.436 with six HRs and 62 RBIs in 117 games.
It’s not the sexy pick, but it is the most affordable one, and if the Dodgers continue to have luck on their side, this will be the one that pans out.
Option 2: Make a trade for a smaller-scale player
The interesting options here are Marcus Semien (.275/.328/.417, three HRs, 13 RBIs) of the A’s, Eduardo Nunez (.277/.277/.375, two HRs, eight RBIs) of the Red Sox and Alcides Escobar (.227/.296/.361, one HR, six RBIs) of the Royals.
Considering Seager’s line of .267/.348/.396 with two HRs and 13 RBIs, the only player that can match that production is Semien, who has a home run more than Seager and a higher batting average, but gets on base slightly less.
At 27 years old, Semien is making $3.125 million this season and is eligible for arbitration until 2021, which is good for the Dodgers.
Dodgers general manager Andrew Friedman should ultimately be interested in Semien’s ability to play second and third base, especially as Logan Forsythe goes into free agency next season.
Giving Semien the $9 million that Forsythe made this season might actually be worth it, especially if he can outperform Forsythe’s .219/.338/.322 line, which has seen him hit just seven home runs and drive in 40 runs.
The problem with a potential deal for Semien could be that the general manager of the A’s is the legendary Billy Beane, who, like Friedman, is no easy man to bargain with.
A deal for Semien would likely command a top prospect and mid-level name, something along the lines of Verdugo and pitcher Yadier Alvarez.
Option 3: Make a big splash
This is what every Dodger fan is hoping for: go get Manny Machado!
If you thought Beane was an obstacle, you haven’t delved into talks with the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, Peter Angelos, who is notorious for never signing off on a trade involving a major player. The most recent example is closer Zach Britton.
But let’s talk about Machado, who is tearing the cover off the ball this season, hitting .361/.448/.676 with nine HRs and 22 RBIs. Not too shabby.
At 25 years old, Machado is without a doubt one of the jewels of the upcoming free agent class, and he is also capable of playing third base if need be.
The Orioles are paying him $16 million this season and are almost certainly going to lose him in free agency to a team like the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox or Cubs, teams that can pay up for his services and ask questions later.
Let us not forget about the luxury tax, though — it’s the Dodgers’ Achilles heel going forward. The team has the money to improve itself, but needs to stay under the tax to avoid getting a stiff penalty that could hurt the team in future seasons.
If done right, the team can position itself to sign arguably the best player in the game, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, and also re-sign Clayton Kershaw to a long-term deal should he opt out of his current contract as he’s expected to do.
Second obstacle: the farm would get torn down a bit. A deal for Machado likely would command that the team deal one of the pitching duo of Walker Buehler or Julio Urias, plus another high-end name. That could come in the form of outfielder D.J. Peters and a mid-level name such as shortstop Gavin Lux, who can replace Machado.
All of that heavy breathing for a rental that isn’t guaranteed to return to the Dodgers after the close of the season.
Regardless of what route the Dodgers go, they’ll have a plethora of options to try and get their season back on track.