The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Miguel Rojas a month and a half ago to serve as a slab of veteran glue on a young infield. Previously a pesky bat, though always glove-first, Rojas put up the worst full offensive season of his career last year at the age of 33.
That was alright with the Dodgers, though. The purpose of acquiring him was to put a standout defender in their utility role, as well as someone who could tutor both Gavin Lux at shortstop and Miguel Vargas at second base, two kids entering unfamiliar territory. Hell, even Max Muncy at third base could've used some tutelage every so often.
After Monday's on-field accident, though, Rojas will be the penciled-in starter at short in relief of Lux, who tore his right ACL and LCL while trying to avoid a throw in a meaningless spring training contest. The 26-year-old was devastated to the point of choking back tears in his time with the media after the diagnosis became official. For reasons both on and off the field, it will be quite difficult for the Dodgers to pick up the pieces from this particular loss.
Somewhat predictably, the rest of the baseball world hasn't been quite so sympathetic. The Dodgers' offseason plan has long been under fire, with the team dripping past the luxury tax threshold while still holding off on signing clear difference-makers to save space for Shohei Ohtani next winter.
Now, without Lux and with Rojas elevated to a crucial on-field role, MLB Network Radio's CJ Nitkowski just doesn't see enough offense at the bottom of a lineup that was recently the league's gold standard.
Is Dodgers lineup doomed without Gavin Lux?
From 111 wins to Rojas/Chris Taylor/Trayce Thompson. From Trea Turner and Corey Seager to an aging ex-Marlin and an Ohtani dream. It's certainly tougher to sell than it used to be, especially with Xander Bogaerts, Juan Soto, Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. freshly united in San Diego.
Nitkowski's critical read on the bottom of the Dodgers' lineup might be somewhat close to the prevailing opinion, at this point:
"The offensive angle of this is ... looking at the Dodger lineup and wondering about the bottom half of it. Now it just got a little bit weaker. ... So as they sit here and try to figure this thing out – and I'm sure they have all these contingency plans everywhere, you go into a season, and you have to ask yourself even before spring training starts, 'Alright, what if we lose this guy for the year? What if we lose this guy for the year? What is our plan going to be?'"- CJ Nitkowski
Optimistic Dodgers fans can look towards the top half of the lineup, which Nitkowski discounts to discuss the weakened bottom portion. Sure, there's work to be done, but most teams would kill for Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts as the foundation upon which to figure the rest out. There's also the potential of a number of top prospect breakouts in the immediate future, from James Outman to Michael Busch to Vargas, as well as Max Muncy's hopeful bounce back.
Pessimistic Dodgers fans, though, will likely remain skeptical of hitting on four prospects at the same time, including one playing out of position in Vargas. They won't believe in Jason Heyward: The Savior. Hell, they probably didn't even believe fully in Lux, but realize just how steep the dropoff is. And didn't Betts and Freeman both come up small in last year's postseason failure? Why is the 111-win team the reference point rather than the manner in which it all came crashing down?
By May, we should know once and for all whether Dodgers Jekyll or Dodgers Hyde wins this universal battle.