How do Dodgers navigate Betts, Yamamoto injuries?

June 18th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Juan Toribio’s Dodgers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

DENVER -- Throughout a long season, injuries will happen. However, it’s not often that a team loses one of its best pitchers and one of its best position players in a span of 24 hours.

That’s exactly what happened to the Dodgers over the weekend. On Saturday, they lost for more than a month with an injured right rotator cuff. The next morning, they lost to a fractured left hand, which will keep him out for at least six to eight weeks, according to manager Dave Roberts.

The silver lining, at least what the Dodgers are saying, is that neither injury is expected to be season ending. Both should return for the stretch run. That’s ultimately all that matters for Los Angeles, which is in a World Series or bust season following a historic spending spree this offseason.

If there’s a roster in the Majors that can withstand a couple of significant blows, it’s probably the Dodgers. It also helps that they have an 8 1/2-game lead in the National League West, with no team behind them proving to be much of a threat.

However, how do the Dodgers plan on getting through the Betts and Yamamoto injuries? Let’s take a look at three possible issues.

1. Replacing Betts

If the season ended today, there’s a strong chance Betts would’ve taken home his second Most Valuable Player Award. That’s how valuable he’s been for Los Angeles, making him impossible to replace at face value.

In order for the Dodgers to do that, they’ll have to do it collectively. Offensively, it’ll be Shohei Ohtani taking over the leadoff spot. Behind him are Will Smith and Freddie Freeman. All three of those stars looked locked in at the plate on Monday. They all know how important this stretch without Betts is, so it’s on them to hold it down until he returns.

Defensively, replacing Betts’ production is easier. Miguel Rojas will get the majority of reps at the position, with Kiké Hernández getting spot starts. Rojas, who has been a shortstop for most of his career, gives the Dodgers a better defensive option. The Venezuelan is one of the best defenders in the Majors. Offensively, he’s also providing far more production than he did last season.

Rojas collected three hits on Monday. When Rojas does that, the Dodgers are nearly impossible to beat. Don’t believe me? Well, Los Angeles is now 20-0 when Rojas records at least one hit.

“What Miggy brings to the table, obviously, he’s been incredibly successful over his career,” executive vice president and general manager Brandon Gomes said. “So, it’s going to be continuing to evaluate and [see] how everything fits into the team overall.”

2. Replacing Yamamoto

This is a much more straightforward plan for the Dodgers. Before Yamamoto’s injury, the club was about to deploy a six-man rotation with Bobby Miller set to return from a two-month absence on Wednesday.

With Yamamoto now hurt, Miller will slot right into his rotation spot. No. 12 prospect Landon Knack now becomes the next-man up in case the Dodgers need another starter. Ryan Yarbrough can also start games. Clayton Kershaw could be an option as soon as next month as he continues his progression from offseason left shoulder surgery.

Though Yamamoto showed his best stuff against the Yankees, the Dodgers should have plenty of arms to fill in for as long as the Japanese right-hander needs.

3. How does this affect the Trade Deadline?

Not much will change for the Dodgers leading up to the Deadline on July 30 at 3 p.m. PT. Going into the weekend, Los Angeles was going to be involved in a lot of conversations to improve the team. Talks regarding a frontline starter may intensify a bit more with Yamamoto missing time, but there aren’t many starters on the market who would be a clear upgrade on the in-house options.

On the position player side, the Dodgers were also going to look at adding either an outfielder who can complement what they already have or an infielder. A shortstop is the biggest need on the roster, but like pitching, there aren’t many players expected to be available. Bo Bichette and Willy Adames are the two who have been linked the most for the Dodgers, but that seems unlikely at this point. Of course, a lot can change over the next month.

“It’s trying to figure out, continuing to evaluate where we are in the division and what it looks like as far as just accumulating wins,” Gomes said. “I actually don’t think it meaningfully changes anything at this point.”