Is Bo Bichette the Dodgers’ solution to moving Mookie Betts off shortstop?

Watch as Los Angeles Dodgers' Mookie Betts is visibly in pain after getting hit by a 98-mph fastball in his left hand.

Oof. The question had to be asked Friday of Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes: would he consider acquiring Bo Bichette with an eye toward moving Mookie Betts off shortstop and into a more comfortable position?

So, Kevin Barker, my co-host on Blair & Barker, asked it. You should know that one of the reasons so many well-sourced national reporters keep mentioning Bichette’s name in trade rumours is there is chatter that the Toronto Blue Jays and Dodgers kicked the ball around during the off-season, but the Dodgers mentioned Gavin Lux’s name and that’s no shock: Lux has run his course as a Dodger. They’ve offered him to several teams, according to two general managers we’ve spoken to.

You should also know that the question was asked about 48 hours before Dan Altavilla’s 98 m.p.h. fastball fractured Betts’ left hand. Surgery won’t be required, but Betts sounded afterward like someone ready for a prolonged absence.

Gomes, bless him, managed to answer the question without even mentioning Bichette’s name.

“Watching Mookie from Day 1 to now has been really enjoyable,” Gomes said. “He’s getting off the ball great. He’s getting to a bunch of balls shortstops don’t even get to with just so few reps. He’s just somebody I would not bet against. Elite work ethic. The instincts are amazing and to be honest he just hasn’t had that many games. Hopefully, we keep playing good baseball and getting him out there and being comfortable is the best thing for the Dodgers right now. We’ve been very pleased with how it plays out and we think it will improve. We think he can be an above-average shortstop.”

Yeah …

Betts, a six-time Gold Glover in right field, ranks analytically among the bottom five or six shortstops. He has committed nine errors in 64 games, just behind Elly De La Cruz and O’Neil Cruz.

The Dodgers have an eight-game cushion in the National League West, and they also have Freddie Freeman, Shohei Ohtani and Will Smith. It’s doubtful they’ll panic but remember: they’ve had big stonking leads before (they won the NL West by16 games in 2023) and yet their only World Series win since 1988 game in 2020 with a Covid asterisk. So why not bow to the inevitable and prepare for Betts’ return to his favourite position, second base?

It makes sense that Bichette approaching free agency and the Blue Jays’ wobbly start to the season would provide fertile ground for trade rumours. And let’s be clear: you’d get a bigger return for Bichette now than in the off-season, because theoretically the acquiring team would get him for two post-seasons. Me? I can read the standings but not this front office’s thinking. Given how many mediocre, .500-ish teams there are right now it is possible that a game that never waits for anybody is waiting for the Blue Jays, who have after all just taken a series from a team that still has the fourth-best record in the Major Leagues, the Cleveland Guardians. If pressed, I’d rather see one last attempt made at signing Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. If nothing transpires and the Blue Jays miss the playoffs? I’d do a complete re-build in the off-season when everything (and I do mean everything) would be on the table.

Bo Naylor: The Natural?

What a terrific weekend for baseball in Canada, with a fun 2024 induction class at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in Saint Marys on a glorious Saturday — congratulations to Russell Martin, Paul Godfrey, Jimmy Key, Rod Heisler, Howard Birnie, Ashley Stephenson and of course our very own Buck Martinez, who won the Jack Graney Award — and the presentation on Sunday of the Tip O’Neill Award to player of the year Josh Naylor.

Good to catch up with Denis Boucher, former MLB pitcher and Baseball Canada coaching stalwart, who raved about seeing a young Naylor when he was with the Canadian program.

“He’d just pick up any bat, rub some dirt on his hands, and hit bombs without batting gloves on,” he said. “We’d go down to the Dominican Republic, their guys would be all over us, and he’d just go up there and crush. Same thing: grab a bat. Find some dirt. Slug.”

The running Sox

The Boston Red Sox stole nine bases in beating the New York Yankees on Sunday and, well, I’ll leave that alone ahead of their first game Monday against Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk and the Toronto Blue Jays. But I will say it’s a reminder that the Red Sox are in the nascent stages of building something, and that they’ve already laid down some markers: their 4-2 homestand included series wins over the Philadelphia Phillies and Yankees, the first time in franchise history they’ve beaten the first place team in the NL and AL in consecutive series (minimum: 50 games into a season.)

Both the Phillies and Yankees entered their series with the best record in MLB at the time. The Red Sox have never won consecutive series against teams with the Majors’ best record, either.

IKF was Mr. Bet on Yourself before Fred Van Vleet

Isiah Kiner-Falefa has been a sublime presence for the Toronto Blue Jays and as of this writing is second on the team in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) at 2.2, which essentially means he’s producing at the level of a player earning roughly $16 million. Pretty good value for a guy in the first year of a two-year deal worth $7.5 million annually. (As an aside: can we all stop moaning about his contract? It’s not stopping the Blue Jays from doing anything. Nor will it. Really.)

Offensively, he has an elite whiff and strike percentage and is on pace to match his career-best offensive numbers posted in 2021 with the Texas Rangers. That won’t come as a surprise to MLB Network analyst Sean Casey, who was Kiner-Falefa’s hitting coach last season with the New York Yankees and told us on Blair & Barker that IKF still had some untapped potential as a hitter.

IKF’s origin story is intriguing: he essentially owes much of his career to Marcus Doi, a teammate at Mid-Pacific High School in Honolulu “My teammate (Doi) went to the Area Code Games and was MVP of the tournament, and when he came back to Hawaii we had 15, 20 scouts at every one of our games. He was a projected first-rounder; I was lucky to get so many eyes on me,” said Kiner-Falefa, who garnered particular interest from the Rangers and scout Steve Flores.

Kiner-Falefa had already signed a letter of intent with San Jose State (he never received an offer from the University of Hawaii) but quietly let it be known that he was more interested in turning pro. The Rangers made him a fourth-round pick in 2013 and he accepted $200,000 — half the slot value teams allocate for a player chosen in the round. Doi ended up going in the 25th round to the Chicago Cubs. Teams suspected, correctly, that he was going to go to the University of Hawaii. He wasn’t drafted again and never played professionally.

“They (Flores and the Rangers scouts) pounded the table for me,” said Kiner-Falefa. “I got lucky.”

Nah … sounds to us like he’s made his own luck.

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An in-season tournament? Hard pass, thanks

I guess it’s tough to keep them down on the ‘pharm’ once they’ve seen the bright lights of London. Certainly, the Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper seemed energized by the London Series against the New York Mets, to the point where he has suggested an in-season tournament — much like the NBA’s — with the final being played in London.

Hey, I get the lure of an overseas trip to break up the monotony of the regular-season schedule and have no issue with more series being played in different parts of the globe, even if I’m skeptical that a whole bunch of baseball fans are created in a two-game series. But a tournament? I guess you could designate certain regular-season games as ‘Tourney’ games or figure out a way to send a representative from each division to some sort of round-robin event held over a week in one locale but, frankly, I think MLB should focus on growing the World Baseball Classic and take more of the games overseas.

Admittedly, you’d come into conflict with European domestic soccer leagues by maintaining the same schedule and the weather would be an issue. You’d most likely need to play in southern parts of the continent. But, as my friend David Samson said when I wondered about scheduling an in-season tourney: “Have you heard of this new thing we have in New York, Jeff? It’s called a computer.”

Samson made a good point when he joined us on Blair & Barker: the idea merits consideration as a means of adding another ‘jewel event’ to the baseball calendar that could be used to increase the value of a network TV deal — and MLB has been forced into a deep think of its future as a national TV property in the U.S. Being creative might not be the worst thing. But I still see the WBC as the vehicle to move forward. I’d hate to see MLB shoot itself in the foot with international play the way the NHL has done consistently.

Dumbing down the discourse

Loved this article from our Shi Davidi on The Buffalo Boys and Matt Hague and their pre-game hitting routine before Saturday’s game. But I have a question: the idea of using a machine that mimics the velocity and spin of the day’s starter makes so much sense that even I can see it. This would hardly seem like rocket science considering how much money and manpower this organization pours into things, but if that’s some kind of ‘eureka’ moment … well, it would pretty much jibe with the fuzzy-headed approach we see all too often at the plate.

Jeff Blair hosts Blair & Barker from 2-4 p.m. ET on Sportsnet 590 The Fan and Sportsnet. Blair & Barker also host Blue Jays Talk following Blue Jays weekday games.

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