Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced this morning that infielder Gavin Lux suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during yesterday’s Cactus League game and will miss the 2023 season (Twitter thread via Juan Toribio of MLB.com). Lux also sustained damage to his right knee’s LCL. He’ll undergo surgery on March 7.
Lux, 25, was slated to step into the spotlight as the Dodgers’ primary shortstop following the free-agent departures of Corey Seager following the 2021 season and Trea Turner this past offseason. However, while advancing from second to third base on a grounder in yesterday’s game, Lux altered his course a bit to avoid a throw across the diamond. In doing so, the infielder’s knee buckled, and he immediately tumbled to the ground in pain. Lux was unable to put any weight on his right leg and was carted off the field.
With Lux now out for the season, the Dodgers’ January reacquisition of infielder Miguel Rojas now becomes a far more pivotal pickup. Rojas, who’s spent the past half decade as the Marlins’ primary shortstop (after being traded from the Dodgers to Miami), is a light hitter but grades out as one of the best defensive shortstops in the game. He’d been ticketed for a utility role but will now step up as the everyday shortstop in Lux’s absence. Roberts added that Swiss army knife Chris Taylor could get some reps in the infield as well, and Mookie Betts could see some extra work at second base for the Dodgers, too (Twitter link via Jack Harris of the L.A. Times).
The 2022 season saw Lux take the field for a career-high 129 games and slash 276/.346/.399 in a career-high 471 plate appearances. That was solid production — 13% better than average, per wRC+ — but it also bears mentioning that a woeful cold streak in September and October weighed down Lux’s end-of-season numbers. Lux was slowed by neck and and upper-back soreness late in the year, receiving a cortisone injection and missing about two weeks of action while mending that injury. Based on the way his season finished out, it doesn’t seem the injection and downtime had their intended effect.
Through Sept. 1, Lux was slashing a far more robust .293/.368/.428 in 418 plate appearances. During the season’s first five months, he walked at an 11% clip and fanned at a lower-than-average 18.9% rate. Upon returning on Sept. 17, however, Lux tallied 53 more plate appearances but hit just .154/.170/.192 with an alarming 30.2% strikeout rate and 1.9% walk rate.
Between that five-month run to open the 2022 season, a strong K-BB profile, sharp defensive grades at second base and Lux’s pedigree as a former first-round pick and universally lauded top prospect, a 2023 breakout seemed like a real possibility. That’ll no longer be the case, and it’s a gut-punch for both the Dodgers and for Lux. He’ll spend the year on the injured list, gaining Major League service time along the way and inching closer to free agency at the conclusion of the 2026 season.
Rojas figures to be a downgrade with the bat on the heels of a .236/.283/.323 showing in 2022. While he did post a much more solid .277/.334/.398 line from 2019-21 (1208 plate appearances), Rojas just turned 34 and has seen his quality of contact degrade considerably over the past couple seasons. However, while he doesn’t have the offensive upside of Lux, Rojas should provide the Dodgers with lights-out glovework at the position. He piled up a gaudy 15 Defensive Runs Saved and 11 Outs Above Average with the Marlins at shortstop in 2022, and dating back to 2017 he’s been credited with 27 DRS and 19 OAA in more than 4800 innings.
Even if Rojas gives the Dodgers a more-than-passable replacement option at shortstop, Lux’s injury still thins out the organization’s infield depth in a meaningful way — particularly with top prospect and projected regular second baseman Miguel Vargas also dealing with a hairline fracture in his pinkie finger. While there’s no indication Vargas is expected to miss substantial time with the injury — he’s playing in Cactus League games but not swinging during his plate appearances at the moment — subtracting Lux from the roster likely pushes a depth option such as Yonny Hernandez up from Triple-A. The outfield depth is also impacted, as any time Taylor spends in the infield cuts into his availability elsewhere on the diamond.
It’s feasible that the Dodgers could yet look to add some infield depth, though options on the free-agent market at this point are extremely limited. Veterans like Jose Iglesias, Jonathan Villar, Didi Gregorius and Andrelton Simmons remain unsigned, but the latter three in particular have had their share of recent struggles. The Dodgers are no strangers to making small-scale trades and adding depth via waivers, of course, and this injury gives them the freedom to accommodate a new acquisition on the 40-man roster by shifting Lux to the 60-day injured list.