There have been a ton of high-profile injuries in this young season, but probably none has been bigger than the one announced on Monday night.
The Los Angeles Dodgers placed star shortstop Corey Seager on the disabled list with a sprained UCL in his throwing elbow, and the second-year man will miss the rest of the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, according to multiple sources.
In hindsight, we maybe should have seen this coming. Seager missed the first two rounds of the playoffs last year with elbow problems and over the last week, he has made some uncharacteristically wild throws in the field. He has also struggled at the plate, slashing .267/.348/.396, significantly lower than his rate stats a year ago. As a left-handed hitter who throws right-handed, an elbow injury can have a bigger impact on his swing.
With the decision to have him go under the knife, the Dodgers will see yet another major shuffle in the field, and may set the first big move of the season in motion. But with the team already struggling, will they be able to recover from losing such a bright star?
The Dodgers are already one of the more disappointing teams in the 2018 season.
Coming into the season as the defending National League champions, most regarded Dave Roberts' team as prohibitive favorites to win a sixth consecutive National League West crown. But going into today, the team stands only 12-16, fourth in the division and seven games behind the soaring Arizona Diamondbacks.
Injuries have been a big problem. Before Seager went down, the Dodgers had lost Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig, Logan Forsythe, and Rich Hill, and even their healthy stars have struggled too. Kenley Jansen has been nothing like the game's most dominant closer. He's blown two saves, pitched to a 5.59 ERA in 9.2 innings, and seen his K/9 ratio nosedive from 14.36 to 11.17. Cody Bellinger is hitting .291 but has only homered once in the last two weeks, and Puig was slashing only .193/.250/.250 before he hit the DL. Even Clayton Kershaw hasn't been able to save them—he's 1-4 despite a sterling 2.84 ERA.
The Dodgers are nothing if not versatile, and they will use that versatility to cover for Seager—at least for now. Jack-of-all-trades Chris Taylor will move from center field to short, which will probably see another utility man, Kike Hernandez, take up center.
It's possible things stay that way. Hernandez showed up big in the playoffs last year and LA may see fit to stand pat there until Puig comes back, kick Joc Pederson to center and hope the mercurial Cuban heats up. They could also call up top hitting prospect Alex Verdugo to man center field.
Of course, Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman could look outside the organization for help. And there is a certain shortstop that he could enquire about...
As USA Today's Bob Nightengale insinuated in the linked tweet, it would be a shock if the Dodgers, even hungrier for their first world title since 1988 after last year's heartbreaking World Series loss, didn't at least look into the possibility of trading for Baltimore superstar Manny Machado. Machado has started the season like gangbusters, and the Dodgers definitely have the prospect depth to pull such a deal—and the money to look into making such a move more than a rental if they find a fit for him in their organization. The rumors will fly here for a while. Watch this space.
It's still early in the season. The Diamondbacks are on an incredible pace—one they likely can't keep up, not to this degree. But the Dodgers have a long climb ahead of them if they are to defend their division title again.
Before they even think about catching Arizona, they have to right their own ship. They lost two of three to the lowly Miami Marlins last week, then three of four to the San Francisco Giants over the weekend. The series that starts this week, against the D-Backs, could go a long way to defining just how deep a hole they have to dig out of.
Even at this early stage, if Arizona romps here, the Dodgers may end up focusing on the NL Wild Card race rather than the division. If they stay in the hunt for the Wild Card and the injured pieces that are due to come back do so and rebound, they will be more than capable of making another deep playoff run. But there are a lot of things yet to be determined before we truly know anything.