In early July while Mookie Betts was on the injured list, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the star slugger might play more second base upon his return. The first game Betts logged at second base this year was on July 4, just before he had hit the shelf.
After that? July 27, 28 and 31 against the Washington Nationals and Colorado Rockies, leading up to the Aug. 2 trade deadline. Any particular reason the Dodgers might’ve been exploring this lineup switch more regularly? Betts is an all-world right fielder and the roster doesn’t exactly boast a ton of outfield depth.
Cody Bellinger is the everyday center fielder. Trayce Thompson, at the time, was the everyday left fielder with Chris Taylor on the IL. James Outman and Zach McKinstry saw some time out in left and right as well, but those aren’t exactly roster upgrades, especially if the Dodgers were going to be moving Gavin Lux off second base. That objectively makes the lineup worse.
So … in digging a bit deeper, it seems Betts, who has played a grand total of 27 games at second base throughout his nine-year career, being utilized as an infielder was a bluff to drive the price up on a Juan Soto trade.
Mission accomplished! Because the San Diego Padres had to cough up five of their best prospects in pitcher MacKenzie Gore, outfielder Robert Hassell III, shortstop CJ Abrams, outfielder James Wood, and pitcher Jarlin Susana.
The Dodgers might’ve tricked the Padres into thinking they wanted Juan Soto
Since the calendar turned to August, Betts hasn’t logged a single inning at second base across the team’s last eight games. Coincidence?
Oh, did we also mention the Padres were forced to jettison slugger Luke Voit in the Soto deal because Eric Hosmer waived his no-trade clause to Washington? And then San Diego traded Hosmer to the Red Sox and sent over $44 million to Boston to pay for an overwhelming majority of the remainder of his contract?
Sure, in the end, it’s all worth the price of Soto for 2.5 years as well as Josh Bell for the remainder of 2022, but man, the Dodgers’ speculated bluff here pretty much cost the Padres the maximum cost of admission.
The ensuing beatdown that occurred shortly after the trade made it all the funnier, too. Even when the Dodgers don’t make the blockbuster moves, they still somehow come out on top.
If president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was never truly in on Soto, then this was the next best thing he could’ve done. The Dodgers have the best team in baseball and little reason to blow up their future for Soto, who now puts pressure on the Padres to claim the ultimate prize before the conclusion of the 2024 season.
Better get crackin’ on rebuilding that farm in the meantime, AJ.