The Dodgers are confident shortstop Corey Seager will be ready for spring training after undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery in April and a hip operation in August, Andrew Friedman, the team’s president of baseball operations, said at the baseball general managers meetings this week.
“Everything, to this point, all the checkpoints have been really good, really positive,” Friedman said. “Until you start really ramping up, you don’t really know. He’s worked extremely hard. He’s in really good hands, so we remain optimistic.”
Friedman said Seager, who is rehabbing in Los Angeles, hasn’t started a throwing program or begun running yet, but he’ll resume those with time to spare, barring any setbacks. After the hip surgery, the club indicated Seager would resume baseball activities in January.
Seager, 24, appeared in 26 games last season, batting .267 with a .744 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He played the second half of the 2017 season with inflammation and bone chips in his right elbow. He tore the ulnar collateral ligament in April, shortly after he hurt his hip. The Dodgers then decided to resolve the hip issue while he was already rehabbing his elbow.
Friedman said he didn’t expect the hip surgery to affect Seager’s future at shortstop.
“The surgery is pretty common with a really high rate of return with guys returning similar to what they were,” Friedman said. “So I don’t think so. But obviously, any one player can play out in different ways. But I know firsthand how much he’s dominated the rehab process and putting in the work, so that makes us feel as confident as we can, sitting here in November, that he won’t miss a beat.”
The Dodgers initially attempted to replace Seager with Chris Taylor at shortstop. That experiment failed so they acquired Manny Machado, an impending free agent, to fuel a playoff push over the season’s final three months. Machado is now free to negotiate with any club and a return to Los Angeles appears improbable. Beyond the financial cost — the 26-year-old is expected to sign one of the richest contracts in baseball history — the Dodgers don’t have a clear fit for him.
Friedman confirmed Seager will return as a shortstop. Machado played third base his first six seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, but Justin Turner, the Dodgers’ best hitter last season, is under contract for another two years at third. Turner could hypothetically shift to first base, but that doesn’t appear under consideration with Cody Bellinger, David Freese and Max Muncy on the roster.
Machado’s brief time in Los Angeles was thorny. While he exceeded defensive expectations and occasionally produced a timely hit, he didn’t fulfill his offensive promise during the regular season, batted .227 with a .672 OPS in the postseason, and attracted negative attention for on-field actions perceived as dirty and a lack of hustle. He became a villain and was reminded during every road game.
“He got booed in Baltimore three weeks before we traded for him. It’s not like it was a secret,” Friedman said. “I think it’s never a fun thing to watch, at least from my perspective and vantage point. But I do think it’s important to dig further and I think there are times when guys do that and they don’t really care. … And by care I mean, the effort they put into their work, what type of teammate they are, and Manny checks all of those boxes.
“So would I rather see more effort as I’m watching? Of course. I think anybody would say that. But I think that, in itself, isn’t as critical of a dynamic if he didn’t care, if he didn’t put in the work, didn’t put in the effort. That, in our 3½ months being around him, was really strong.”
Whether the eventful stint in Los Angeles affected Machado’s free-agent stock will become evident over the next several weeks. Players of Machado’s caliber — particularly ones at premium positions and at his age — are rare commodities on the market. He has suitors. The Dodgers, as currently constructed, don’t figure to be one with Seager on the mend.
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