The Dodgers experienced a long absence at third base with the departure of Adrian Beltre at the end of his 2004 season. It literally took 10 years for the Dodgers to find some stability at the hot corner when they signed Justin Turner who had not had much success in the big leagues as a third baseman. He did have some experience at third base with the Mets but he was not an everyday third baseman. He was used as a utility player by the Mets. One thing was certain though: JT demonstrated he could pick it with the best of them at the hot corner and he became the mainstay at third in LA from 2014-2020, helping the Dodgers get to 3 World Series and finishing up the 2020 run with a title. Let’s take a look at all scenarios the Dodgers are faced with at the hot corner. Some will be a little more obvious than others but all are possible solutions for them at the hot corner.
Let’s start with the most obvious solution for the Dodgers. Resign Justin Turner and continue with Justin Turner as our everyday third baseman. Nothing changes. There is one interesting obstacle that might prevent this from happening. Turner is looking for a 3 year contract to take him into his 39th birthday. Although this is not too far out of the question, the Dodgers would have to be willing to commit for the next 3 years with an aging Turner. He is still as solid as ever, but he has been injury prone over the past couple of seasons including this shortened season. So do the Dodgers pay Turner to hold up that position through 2023? Is Turner’s 3 year request simply a starting position typical of negotiations? Would he settle for 2? Will the Dodgers prefer a 2 year deal? Do they have their eyes set on something bigger? Maybe there are other options they are exploring.
Perhaps, the Dodgers are seriously considering the Nolan Arenado trade discussed in the Hot Stove rumors. If they trade for Arenado, and he waives his opt-out clause, the Dodgers have a solid 3B for the next 6 years and this is a legit solution to that problem. The Dodgers are gold if this happens because they would have an elite player at third defensively who can also hold his own offensively. It is the best possible scenario that gives the Dodgers an upgrade at the position. It is yet to be seen if the Rockies are serious about making a deal with a division rival.
Assuming the Dodgers decide not to sign Justin Turner, and are also unable to trade for Arenado, what happens then? This is where it gets interesting and not too difficult if you think about it. Andrew Friedman and the ownership perhaps can choose to save some money. The Dodgers are blessed with a great farm system and surely there is a kid down in Triple AAA who is manning that position day in and day out. However, let’s not even open up that can of worms because I do not think we have to go fishing in Triple AAA for a 2021 third baseman. I do believe that 2021 has a very strong possibility of being a year in which Dave Roberts will be using third base as a rotational position for the lefty/righty matchups. There are 3 options who have played a little bit of third base for the Dodgers in the past. Chris Taylor, Max Muncy, and Edwin Rios. All 3 of those guys have had some time at third base at one point or another. Just imagine this scenario: Lefty pitcher, Taylor plays third base. Righty pitcher, you can either go with Muncy or Rios at the Hot Corner. Both bat lefty so you can go with either one. Muncy can play third base, while Rios plays first, or vice versa. This scenario plays out as the most economical approach for the Dodgers since they already have these guys under contract. They do not have to spend millions at a position where they already have 3 guys who can play the position. In the long run, you might see one of those guys earn the spot as the everyday third baseman. The good news is the Dodgers have that depth. It is a good problem to have. We can start to open up the rosters in Triple A, and Double A midway through the season to see if there are any capable third basemen in the pipeline that might make an appearance here and there in 2021 at third and possibly be major-league ready for 2022. This is a long shot though, which leads me to the final idea.
The final idea is not too crazy of an idea if you think about it. It was rumored that the Dodgers were interested in a trade for Francisco Lindor at some point during this offseason. How much truth was there to that rumor? Who knows? But the question is why would they do this? Why go after a shortstop when we have a stud at short that just bloomed in 2020? Corey Seager showed he is now ready to take off as one of the best shortstops in the game. Unless, of course the Dodgers have a different idea in mind. Maybe they have a better idea that plays out perfectly for 2021 and beyond. Seager is a good defensive shortstop but as big as he is, I have always felt that at some point in his career he will move over to third base. There have been some pretty spectacular shortstops that remind me of Seager body wise. Cal Ripken comes to mind right away. A Hall of Fame legend who made his start as a shortstop but eventually moved over to third base. Alex Rodriguez also started as a shortstop who then moved over to third when he arrived to the Yankees. We also saw Manny Machado make that move. He was drafted as a shortstop and very easily made the move over to third base. It makes sense. Seager is not that speedy. He does not get to baseballs as fast as other shortstops. This year he was ranked 31st out of 59 infielders in the “Out Above Average” leaderboard for players who had a minimum of 100 defensive attempts. That just shows there are other players with more range than him. Fernando Tatis was first in this category, Nolan Arenado was 2nd and Jean Segura was third. When you narrow down the filter to just shortstops in this same category with players who had more than 100 attempts, 22 shortstops pop up and Corey is 11th on this list. This has everything to do with the math that will more than likely have Corey Seager playing third base sooner rather than later in his career. Perhaps, 2021 will see the Dodgers make this move. The Dodgers can afford to make this move and have Taylor play shortstop everyday. Seager can then get the extension as a third baseman and play for the Dodgers for the rest of the decade. Taylor can earn his spot at shortstop and also get an extension if he plays well but in case he is unable to handle that responsibility as the everyday guy, the offseason after 2021 will see a boat load of shortstops hit free agency. Javy Baez and Francisco Lindor would both be great options at short to guard the left side with Corey.
Who will it be? We will have to wait and see. Dodger fans do not want to see Justin Turner leave but is it time to make a move? Will it be a big move that sees Nolan join Seager on the left side? Or will the Dodgers play it cool and save a little money in 2021 by using what they already have in house? Or will they land Lindor and move Seager to third? These are the only paths I see. DJ Lemehieu seems like a long shot. He is twice a batting champion and will help our line up but he has not played third base. Will that work out? Lemehieu seems like a conversation we should be having for second base but I do think the Dodgers will give Gavin Lux a chance at second. We will have to wait and see what happens at the sacred Hot Corner.