The Dodgers have announced stunning news regarding top young shortstop Corey Seager. He’ll undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the remainder of the 2018 season, according to the team.
For the time being, infielder Breyvic Valera will come up to take the open roster spot created by Seager hitting the DL. But he won’t come close to accounting for the yawning gap created by Seager’s absence the rest of the way. Seager had dealt with elbow troubles late in 2017, but the news still comes as a major surprise.
Los Angeles entered the season with one of the game’s best duos on the left side of the infield. Though third baaseman Justin Turner has missed the first month of the season, the hope was that he’d soon re-join Seager and re-create a unit that combined for about 12 fWAR annually over the past two campaigns. Instead, the team will cross its fingers that Turner can regain his form at the hot corner while scrambling to account for the hole at short.
Despite a tepid start from the Dodgers overall, it has remained reasonable to anticipate that the club would begin picking up the pace as the season wears on. But losing Seager takes away the Los Angeles organization’s top position player and makes the road to a sixth-straight NL West title seem much tougher.
Despite his own middling run to begin the 2018 campaign — a .257/.339/.366 slash through 115 plate appearances — Seager is viewed as one of the top young talents in baseball. After all, he is a .301/.372/.492 hitter in over 1,500 MLB plate appearances, with quality glovework and baserunning adding to his value. And he just turned 24 three days ago.
Looking to the future, the hope will obviously be that Seager can rehab and get back to full health in advance of the 2019 season. As a position player, rather than a pitcher, the odds are much better that he’ll be able to participate fully in spring camp next year. In the best-case scenario, perhaps, he’ll also have an opportunity to rest some other maladies that have arisen over the years and enjoy a full and unrestrained 2019 campaign. Unfortunately for the young star, the timing of the injury will rob him of a chance at compiling statistics in his final pre-arbitration season, meaning he’ll earn far less next season (and for the following two campaigns) than he would reasonably have anticipated.
More immediately, the Dodgers need to figure out how to make it through the current season. Perhaps the club can account directly for the loss of Seager by moving Chris Taylor back to short, which is the position he broke into the majors playing. Of course, that’d just allow another leak to spring in center field, where Taylor has mostly lined up in 2018. While the organization can call upon its outfield depth — including just-promoted top prospect Alex Verdugo — to make things work, the result is obviously a less-fearsome lineup than it expected to be fielding.
The loss of Seager does create an obvious and intriguing — but still quite speculative — match on paper between the Dodgers and Orioles. The Baltimore club has limped out of the gates in spite of a monster first month from Manny Machado, who is one of a relative few players in baseball (and the only one reasonably available via trade) in Seager’s league at the shortstop position. Doing so, particularly early, would mean not only coughing up a haul of talent but also executing some financial tightrope walking. The club premised its offseason strategy on staying beneath the luxury tax line to re-set its tax obligations, and has just over $15MM of wiggle room to work with at last look. That makes Machado (who’s earning $16MM in his final season of arb eligibility) a tight squeeze. Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, who could opt out of his contract in the coming offseason, is also an interesting-but-expensive conceivable target, though he’s on the DL at the moment. Odds are, the Dodgers will take their time in assessing the possibilities before they make a highly consequential move.