Mookie Betts' comments on shortstop transition show Dodgers might've made wrong decision

Cincinnati Reds v Los Angeles Dodgers
Cincinnati Reds v Los Angeles Dodgers / Harry How/GettyImages

Mookie Betts, tied for first with Shohei Ohtani and Kyle Tucker atop FanGraphs' WAR leaderboard to kick off the season, was out of the Dodgers lineup for the first time this year on Saturday. It had nothing to do with his performance at the plate — he'd hit .310 over his last seven games through Friday — but it could've had something to do with his defense at shortstop, where he moved during spring training when Gavin Lux couldn't hack it there.

The Dodgers won 7-3 on Friday, with a homer by Betts in the first, but after the game he was beating himself up about a throwing error that allowed Cincinnati's first run of the night to score. He said of his performance, "I think it’s been not very good. It’s a work in progress," and was described by Bill Plunkett of The Orange County Register as sounding "weary."

Dave Roberts said Betts' absence on Saturday wasn't in response to anything in particular, but Betts' performance at shortstop thus far does warrant some criticism, and his clear dissatisfaction with himself at the position reinforces the Dodgers' real need for a trade for a replacement at the deadline.

Mookie Betts' performance at shortstop reinforces Dodgers' need for a more long-term solution

Betts has six errors on the season so far and his OAA is all the way down in the fifth percentile, which is a little mind-boggling when put up next to his 100th percentile batting run value (even higher than Ohtani's). His -4 OAA so far is tied for the worst in his career with 2022 and 2023, and we're only a fourth of the way through the season.

When Betts was moved to shortstop despite spending most of the offseason and spring training preparing to play at second, he did so with only a few major league games at the position under his belt. It didn't make much sense back then, and although it hasn't been a complete dumpster fire (and hasn't affected his offense), the Dodgers can't get complacent with Betts at shortstop and let the trade deadline pass them by without at least making an effort to find a replacement.

Lux continues to make himself virtually untradeable with his offensive performance, but the Dodgers need to find some way to finally get Willy Adames — or, really, any other good defensive shortstop -- on board. Despite his potentially MVP-making bat, a weary Betts will be worse for the Dodgers in the long run than getting rid of Lux.