It’s the moment Los Angeles Dodgers fans have been waiting for: Gavin Lux turning into a serviceable major league player! So far in 2022, so good.
Except for the defense … but we’ll get to that a little later. More importantly, Lux’s bat has come around in a big way.
Across his first 59 games this year, he’s slashing .285/.362/.387 with 34 runs scored, 2 homers, 16 RBI and 5 stolen bases. He’s struck out only 39 times and has worked 23 walks. His 109 OPS+ isn’t special, but it’s above average. Overall, he’s been worth 1.3 bWAR. That’s a player.
Now, looking ahead for the future, Lux is under club control through 2026. At the end of this season, Trea Turner, Justin Turner and Max Muncy can all become free agents (JT and Muncy have team options, Trea will be unrestricted).
Even if the Dodgers pick up all their contract options for 2023 and provide raises for everybody in arbitration, they’ll still only have $197 million committed to the payroll. There will be room to make moves, but the buzz surrounding Trea Turner is that he might prefer the east coast. And the Dodgers also never approached him about an extension this offseason, so …
Nonetheless, could Lux be a viable successor for Turner should he leave? He’s primarily a middle infielder but the Dodgers have been jerking him around between second base and left field, which hasn’t exactly been working.
Gavin Lux could still be a the long-term plan at shortstop for the Dodgers, right?
He’s a left-handed batter crushing left-handed pitching. He’s an equal threat on the basepaths to Turner, evidenced by his 92nd percentile sprint speed. His defense in the middle infield (mostly at second base, but 13 innings at shortstop) has been good for 2 Defensive Runs Saved and he has a positive dWAR despite his performance in left field dragging him down.
At this point, the front office and Dave Roberts can’t view him as a viable utility player. It’s not fair to ask him to keep bouncing around when he’s never been tasked with such a responsibility in his career until 2021. Plus, when you look at his range and success in the middle infield, it’d be dumb not to utilize his talents there.
He was a bit shaky at shortstop in 2021. Across 471.1 innings at the position, he was good for -5 Outs Above Average and had a -9.6 UZR/150. But that coincided with his hitting struggles, so it’s hard to truly evaluate since fans have never seen him ascending in this manner.
Additionally, truth be told, the Dodgers might be better off bolstering their outfield offense/defense and maybe allowing Lux and Chris Taylor to take over the middle infield next year should Trea Turner leave. Why? Because Cody Bellinger is all but officially on his way out (the Dodgers won’t be paying him ~$20 million for this production). Left field has clearly suffered after the AJ Pollock trade, too.
The team’s plans are unclear, but assuming Lux can continue progressing with his bat and playing solid defense up the middle, this isn’t something farfetched to consider.