Offseason Outlook: Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers received essentially the most regular-season video games within the franchise’s 133-year historical past, cruising to a 111-51 document.  Sadly, that success made it all of the extra disappointing when the Dodgers didn’t even win a playoff spherical, falling to the Padres in 4 video games within the NLDS.  Los Angeles now faces the attainable departure of a number of key members of the roster, but additionally a possible alternative to reload with extra premium expertise.

Assured Contracts

  • Mookie Betts, OF: $320MM by 2032 ($99MM is deferred)
  • Freddie Freeman, 1B: $135MM by 2027 ($50MM is deferred)
  • Chris Taylor, IF/OF: $45MM by 2025 (consists of $4MM buyout of membership choice for 2026)
  • Max Muncy, IF: $13.5MM by 2023 ($10MM membership choice for 2024, no buyout)
  • Blake Treinen, RP: $8MM by 2023 (conditional membership choice for 2024 based mostly on Treinen’s well being)
  • Austin Barnes, C: $7MM by 2024 ($3.5MM membership choice for 2025)
  • Daniel Hudson, RP: $6.5MM by 2023 ($6.5MM membership choice for 2024)
  • Be aware: Trevor Bauer is suspended with out pay for the 2023 season, although Bauer is interesting the league’s ruling

Possibility Choices

Arbitration-Eligible Gamers (projected 2023 salaries through MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)

Free Brokers

The worth of being a perennial contender is that something in need of a World Collection title appears like a letdown, although the Dodgers’ document has been so overwhelmingly good during the last decade that it’s arduous to say that the franchise isn’t shifting in the proper route.  That is the argument president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman made in his after-season press convention, and but additionally it is an argument Friedman has needed to make in seven of his eight seasons operating the L.A. entrance workplace.  Nonetheless, the 2020 World Collection title may be very latest proof that Friedman’s method can certainly get the Dodgers over the end line, and the group will definitely go into 2023 as one of many favorites to seize one other Commissioner’s Trophy.

Dave Roberts is coming again as supervisor, which isn’t shocking for the reason that contract extension Roberts final spring hasn’t even formally begun.  Friedman additionally implied that your entire teaching employees will return, until any coaches are provided promotions with different groups.  Including to the “getting the band again collectively” feeling is the truth that the Dodgers already addressed some winter enterprise by reaching extensions with Max Muncy, Daniel Hudson, Austin Barnes, and Blake Treinen throughout the season.

Of those new offers, Barnes is the one one who acquired a multi-year assure.  The Muncy, Hudson, and Treinen extensions all primarily amounted to the Dodgers guaranteeing a pre-existing membership choice for 2023, whereas including one other membership choice for 2024.  There was nonetheless some threat in these selections, provided that L.A. has now dedicated $14.5MM to 2 relievers who mixed for 29 1/3 innings final season — Hudson was pitching very effectively earlier than tearing his ACL in June, whereas Treinen barely pitched in any respect as a result of persistent shoulder accidents.

Muncy had an uncommon season, and was undoubtedly impacted by a partial UCL tear in his left elbow suffered on the final day of the 2021 common season.  Muncy opted in opposition to surgical procedure, after which struggled to a .161/.310/.303 slash line over his first 339 plate appearances earlier than turning it round to hit .247/.358/.500 in his ultimate 226 PA.  His extension was introduced a couple of weeks into that late-season sizzling streak, indicating that the Dodgers are assured that Muncy can get again to his previous kind when totally wholesome.

Even with these 4 potential free brokers locked up, Los Angeles nonetheless has a protracted record of names set to hit the open market, and much more notables that would additionally turn out to be free brokers relying on membership choices or non-tenders.  Muncy’s extension could also be seen as a hedge in opposition to an infield overhaul, contemplating that Trea Turner shall be one of many headliners of the 2022-23 free agent class, backup Hanser Alberto might be unlikely to be retained, and the Dodgers face a $14MM determination on whether or not or to not train the membership choice of longtime staple Justin Turner.  The third baseman turns 38 in November and is coming off an inconsistent 2022 season,

The primary base and catcher positions are locked down by Freddie Freeman and Will Smith.  Muncy can play second or third base, and Gavin Lux can proceed at second base or slide over to shortstop if Turner departs.  Edwin Rios has been plagued with accidents during the last two seasons, however he has proven sufficient flashes of hitting potential and the Dodgers will possible tender him a contract and hope he can contribute to the nook infield combine (although like Muncy and Freeman, Rios can also be a left-handed hitter).  High prospect Miguel Vargas made his MLB debut final season and in addition figures to be a think about left area or third base, even when the Dodgers is probably not certain about his eventual place within the majors.  Tremendous-utilityman Chris Taylor can fill in everywhere in the infield, although Taylor was largely deployed as an outfielder final season and is trying to bounce again after a disappointing season.

Many groups can be fairly glad with a beginning infield of Smith, Freeman, Muncy, Lux, and a Vargas/Rios platoon at third base, with Taylor as a multi-position backup and touted rookies Michael Busch (a top-100 prospect in his personal proper) and Jacob Amaya knocking on the door for their very own Main League debuts.  However…that is the Dodgers we’re speaking about.  They prize roster flexibility, and so they have the monetary sources and minor league depth to pursue nearly each free agent or commerce candidate available on the market.

It’s not arduous to think about a state of affairs the place the Dodgers train Justin Turner’s choice, re-sign Trea Turner, and simply run issues again with the core infield of an 111-win group.  If Trea Turner departed, Los Angeles might actually flip to considered one of their different star shortstops within the free agent market, and there have been some rumblings that the Dodgers are Carlos Correa as their high different on the shortstop place.

L.A. might additionally doubtlessly improve the infield by including to the outfield, equivalent to a state of affairs the place Mookie Betts is abruptly an enormous a part of the second base combine when Aaron Decide is signed to play proper area.  The Dodgers (as is their nature with each high free agent) have at the very least some curiosity in Decide, and whereas each Decide or Betts may very well be in the identical outfield if considered one of them often performs heart area, returning Betts to his previous second base place will surely bolster the infield within the occasion of Trea Turner’s attainable departure.

As a result of that is the Dodgers, a state of affairs can’t be dominated out the place each Decide and Trea Turner are signed, with Los Angeles flexing its payroll muscular tissues as soon as once more.  That mentioned, a case may very well be made that the Dodgers may see this winter as an opportunity to reset their luxurious tax penalties.  Some huge cash is coming off the books within the type of the in-house free brokers, leaving round $165.4MM dedicated to the 2023 roster in {dollars}, and a projected Aggressive Steadiness Tax invoice of just below $184MM.

Clearly, the Dodgers don’t have any qualms about paying CBT penalties usually, as they’ve soared over the tax line in every of the final two seasons.  Three consecutive years of tax overages will increase the penalties, nonetheless, each by way of precise cash paid on the tax invoice, and (most significantly for the Dodgers) continued affect on the compensation each acquired and handed out concerning qualifying-offer free brokers.  For example, Trea Turner will certainly be issued a QO and reject it to check the market, and if indicators elsewhere, Los Angeles will obtain solely a decide after the fourth spherical of the draft as compensation.  Likewise, if the Dodgers signed Decide or one other participant who turned down a QO, the Dodgers must quit their second- and fifth-highest picks within the 2023 draft, in addition to $1MM in worldwide bonus pool funds.

All of those penalties would disappear subsequent winter if the Dodgers received underneath the $233MM luxurious tax threshold in 2023, and the roughly $49MM of present tax wiggle room would permit for L.A. to nonetheless make some vital roster additions.  The Dodgers also can carve out extra room by trades or non-tenders, and Cody Bellinger’s projected $18.1MM wage stands out on this regard.

Since profitable the NL MVP Award in 2019, Bellinger has hit solely .203/.272/.376 with 41 homers over 1143 plate appearances.  His offense notably cratered following shoulder surgical procedure throughout the 2020-21 offseason, and different accidents have additionally contributed to Bellinger’s sharp decline on the plate.  Although he’s nonetheless a wonderful defensive heart fielder and a robust baserunner, that’s a skillset that the Dodgers can substitute for lots lower than $18.1MM.  (Speculatively, Friedman may look to an previous good friend from his days in Tampa Bay now that former Gold Glover Kevin Kiermaier is coming into free company.)

There’s a probability Bellinger isn’t tendered a contract after which re-signed to a decrease wage, however after all he might additionally pursue a change of surroundings with one other group trying to purchase low on a former MVP.  Friedman is more likely to discover commerce prospects for Bellinger earlier than the non-tender deadline, however aside from a state of affairs the place Bellinger is swapped for one more group’s undesirable contract, golf equipment may see if they will wait out the Dodgers after which pounce on Bellinger if he’s certainly non-tendered.

Regardless of Bellinger’s struggles, his departure would go away a gap within the Los Angeles outfield.  Betts stays the cornerstone piece, and journeyman Trayce Thompson unexpectedly broke out in an enormous means after being acquired in an under-the-radar pickup from the Tigers in June.  Thompson performed so effectively that he actually has earned a spot on the 2023 group, however with out a lot of a observe document of constant MLB success, the Dodgers may nonetheless take into account him extra of a part-timer than as a certain factor for on a regular basis motion.  If nothing else, Thompson may at the very least take over Bellinger’s function as a defensive standout, with upside on the plate.

As famous, Taylor is trying to rebound from a disappointing season that was suffering from accidents.  Joey Gallo didn’t hit effectively after becoming a member of the Dodgers and possibly received’t be re-signed.  Kevin Pillar missed virtually your entire season as a result of a fractured shoulder however is perhaps a greater wager to return as a depth choice, since he’d solely require a minor league contract.  Lux, Vargas, and rookie James Outman are different in-house names for at the very least occasional outfield obligation, plus Busch and one other high prospect in Andy Pages ought to get entangled within the outfield combine.

Even with all these names accessible, it appears as if there’s sufficient instability right here that it appears likelier that the Dodgers make a notable outdoors acquisition to deal with the outfield quite than the infield, because the infield will be extra simply addressed simply by “solely” exercising Justin Turner’s choice.  Whether or not that outdoors acquisition is a blockbuster like a Decide signing or a significant commerce, or possibly simply extra lower-tier strikes so as to add one other common to the lineup, anticipate Los Angeles to verify into all prospects.

The identical will be mentioned concerning the beginning rotation, as once more, the Dodgers have some well-regarded prospects in Michael Grove and Ryan Pepiot who made their Main League debuts in 2022.  Simply slotting Grove and Pepiot behind Julio Urias, Dustin Could, and Tony Gonsolin doesn’t go away a lot depth, nonetheless, and L.A. will definitely need extra veteran expertise within the beginning 5.

Clayton Kershaw rejoined the Dodgers on a one-year, $17MM free agent contract final season, signing the day after the lockout ended.  Kershaw mentioned he took the time supplied by the lockout to each heal up some accidents and take into account his future, and the outcome was a wonderful (if injury-shortened) 2022 marketing campaign.  Whilst Kershaw is coming into his age-35 season and well being questions could restrict him to across the 124 innings he has averaged during the last two seasons, Kershaw has nonetheless regarded like one of many league’s finest pitchers when he’s on the mound.  Barring a change of coronary heart, Kershaw seems like a great wager to return to motion in 2023, and can virtually actually achieve this both with the Dodgers or maybe his hometown Rangers (who’ve large want within the rotation and some huge cash to supply).

Re-signing Kershaw would verify off one main field for the Dodgers’ offseason, however in addition they have to deal with the potential losses of Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney.  Two lower-cost free agent signings from the 2021-22 offseason, Anderson pitched so effectively that he made the All-Star group and made himself a borderline qualifying-offer candidate, whereas Heaney missed time with shoulder issues however nonetheless contributed a 3.10 ERA over 72 2/3 innings.

Heaney’s accidents may enhance probabilities of a return to Los Angeles, as he won’t require a multi-year contract, and the Dodgers might use Pepiot and Grove as backup plans if Heaney has to overlook extra time.  One would think about L.A. would additionally wish to retain Anderson given how he broke out in Dodger Blue, however the Dodgers may also want to search for “the subsequent” Tyler Anderson, i.e. one other comparatively cheap veteran who may blossom underneath the watch of pitching coach Mark Prior.

Between discovering these hidden gems and their capacity to draft and develop homegrown pitching expertise, the Dodgers have been in a position to area a persistently robust rotation regardless of quite a few accidents (such because the Tommy John surgical procedure that may possible preserve Walker Buehler sidelined till 2024) and off-the-field points like Trevor Bauer’s suspension.  That mentioned, Los Angeles at all times appears to be an arm or two brief heading into the playoffs, as accidents have usually compelled the Dodgers to reshuffle each their rotation and bullpen, generally with disastrous penalties.

As such, it’s actually attainable that the Dodgers might bolster this group with a pitcher who supplies extra sturdiness than Kershaw or Heaney, and has extra of a longtime observe document than the rookies.  The free agent market affords a number of main names, and whereas there aren’t a ton of golf equipment with sufficient high quality pitching to supply in trades, the Marlins do match that description, and L.A. had some curiosity in right-hander Pablo Lopez on the deadline.  The Dodgers have the prospect depth to at the very least begin a dialog about any pitcher in commerce talks, although some prospects are extra life like than others — as an illustration, although the Angels’ attainable sale has forged quite a lot of uncertainty over the franchise, it’s arduous to think about the Angels dealing Shohei Ohtani to their native rivals.

Turning to the bullpen, the Dodgers determine to have some curiosity in re-signing Tommy Kahnle or deadline pickup Chris Martin, although the present reduction corps is fairly deep.  The most important query is in the back of the bullpen, because it doesn’t appear like saves chief Craig Kimbrel is within the group’s plans.  Kimbrel was faraway from the nearer’s job and wasn’t even included on the Dodgers’ NLDS roster following a season that noticed him submit a 3.75 ERA over 60 innings, with quite a lot of walks and arduous contact allowed, plus a drop in his usually-elite strikeout fee.

If Los Angeles doesn’t undertake a better committee or flip to considered one of its in-house choices as a best choice for the ninth inning, Edwin Diaz is the highest nearer accessible in free company if the Dodgers needed to splurge.  Such names as David Robertson or Taylor Rogers may maintain some curiosity for the L.A. entrance workplace, and whereas a reunion with Kenley Jansen is feasible, it is perhaps somewhat uncommon to see Jansen return to the Dodgers a 12 months after they have been comfy in letting him depart to hitch the Braves.

Then once more, just about something is on the desk for a inventive entrance workplace that has cash to spend and prospects to commerce, so one other lively offseason awaits for the Dodgers.  Any variety of headline-grabbing strikes are attainable, in addition to less-heralded transactions (like acquiring Thompson or Yency Almonte) that find yourself paying large dividends throughout the season.

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