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Dodgers' options at shortstop appear limited

11/24/2014
The Dodgers are in need of a shortstop as they wait for Corey Seager to be ready for the majors. AP Photo/Danny Moloshok

LOS ANGELES -- The same day that Hanley Ramirez came to an agreement to play for the Boston Red Sox for at least the next four years, the Seattle Mariners committed $100 million over seven years to their third baseman, Kyle Seager.

Just four months ago, here is what Seager had to say about the Dodgers’ No. 1 position-player prospect, a shortstop who happens to be his younger brother Corey:

“He pretty much does everything that I’m doing, but just a little better. He’s bigger, stronger, faster, he runs better. He’s good. He’s going to do a lot of really good things in this game.”

That’s the context for what the Dodgers are looking to do to replace Ramirez: Think short term. It’s why the idea of locking up Ramirez -- and paying him something like $22 million when he’s 33 and 34 -- became less and less appealing as Seager continued to dominate at Class A and, eventually, Double-A.

Many people think Seager will wind up playing third base, but that would have been even more problematic with Ramirez in the fold. Had he stayed with the Dodgers, Ramirez would have moved to third base, where some scouts think he plays even worse defense than he did at shortstop. He was, by many accounts, the worst shortstop in the league. A better idea, which the Red Sox seem intent on, is to move Ramirez to the outfield and give him plenty of at-bats at designated hitter, two avenues completely closed to the Dodgers.

So, who do the Dodgers now go with at shortstop? Dee Gordon was asking the same thing on Twitter Monday.

It’s quite possible they’ll live with the in-house options, giving Erisbel Arruebarrena (who will earn his $25 million by 2017 whether he’s in the big leagues or minors) first crack at it. Miguel Rojas will be standing by if he flounders. The Dodgers’ defense would improve significantly, but the offensive drop-off from Hanley to either of those guys would be vast.

The Dodgers don't view Justin Turner, Alex Guerrero or Darwin Barney as possibilities as everyday shortstops.

They’re not high on any of the free-agent possibilities. General manager Farhan Zaidi worked recently with the Oakland A’s, Jed Lowrie's last stop, and he’s not said to be a big fan of what Lowrie brings to the table. His glove is nearly as suspect as Ramirez's at shortstop and his bat not nearly as lethal.

They could re-start trade talks for the Chicago White Sox's Alexei Ramirez, who is under contract through 2015 with an option for 2016 -- a perfect stopgap to see how Seager develops -- but at last check, those talks weren’t exactly humming along. The White Sox, who have designs on competing next season, want a nice return for their All-Star shortstop and the Dodgers are trying to rebuild their farm system.

The most intriguing possibility -- short of trading for Troy Tulowitzki, which seems unlikely for reasons similar to the Alexei Ramirez hold-up -- would be to throw Seager into the fire. He won’t turn 21 until next April 27, but he did bat .345 and slug .534 in 38 games for Double-A Chattanooga. Former Dodger infielder Jerry Hairston Jr. recently publically advocated making Seager the everyday shortstop in a segment for SportsNetLA.

That’s both risky and, potentially, expensive. If Seager is as good as the Dodgers think he is, they might be tempted to wait until some time in June to promote him so they can avoid making him a “Super-Two” player, who would be eligible for salary arbitration after 2 ½ years instead of three. It would also accelerate his path to free agency. One workaround for this problem is to do something like Friedman did with another can’t-miss prospect. He signed Evan Longoria to a nine-year, $44.5 million deal six days into his rookie season. The Rays later extended him through 2022 in a deal that pays him $100 million.

The Dodgers are going to feel the loss of Hanley in the short term, but having him around for the long haul could have proved even more painful in the end.