The Los Angeles Dodgers entered the 2021 season as the World Series favorite. However, they did not even get there, losing to the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS. That was with Max Scherzer and Trea Turner on their roster. Now, Andrew Friedman is tasked with forming a roster that might not include some popular Dodgers players. Scherzer, Kenley Jansen, Corey Seager, and Clayton Kershaw are free agents this winter. All four are so talented that other teams will give them blank checks to sign with their team. The Dodgers might not be willing to do the same thing, considering three of the four are over 32. Utility man Chris Taylor is also a free agent and could command a multi-year deal worth over $10 million a year.
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Since Los Angeles has plenty of positions vacant at the moment, they’ll be focused on filling those holes. Turner can play shortstop, so it isn’t necessary for them to bring Seager back (especially with Gavin Lux able to play second), but he was still the 2020 World Series MVP. Scherzer doesn’t need to return but could go to the Giants or San Diego Padres if the Dodgers don’t give him the money he wants. Kershaw seems destined to return, but there are still questions with him after missing the postseason due to an elbow injury. Taylor is going to be a must-have for the Dodgers because he might be more valuable than any of those free agents mentioned above. He can play almost every position and has a track record of staying healthy.
Keys to the Offseason
Build Back Up the Rotation
Kershaw and Scherzer were two of the Dodgers’ top three starters down the stretch. If even one doesn’t return, then that’s going to leave a significant hole in the rotation. The good news is there are plenty of starting pitching options on the free-agent market. The problem, though, is Kershaw and Scherzer might take a while to make a decision. The longer the Dodgers are forced to wait out those two’s decisions, the more starters that will come off the board and sign elsewhere. Thus, that would limit their fallback options if they go elsewhere. Even past Kershaw and Scherzer, expect Los Angeles to bring in more depth because it isn’t a guarantee Trevor Bauer is on the roster next year, and Dustin May is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Andrew Heaney also isn’t a guarantee to pitch well after struggling in New York.
Sign a Utilityman
Taylor should be the number one target. But, if he signs somewhere else for more money, then the Dodgers need to bring in another utility guy. Lux could fill that role, but he isn’t great in the outfield. Additionally, they’d have to find a second baseman if Seager doesn’t return. Losing Kike Hernandez to the Boston Red Sox last offseason might end up biting the Dodgers in the butt if Taylor doesn’t return because they might be having to settle for a less-talented utility man.
Back End Bullpen Help
Jansen hasn’t been as consistent as he ages, so he might not return. Even if he does, the Dodgers need some bullpen help to pair with Blake Treinen late in games. Joe Kelly, Corey Knebel, and Jansen were three of Dave Roberts‘ best arms in the bullpen, but all three are free agents. You’d think at least one would return, but that still leaves two holes. It makes it that more important to add relief help when you consider David Price hasn’t been the guy they expected him to be, and there are inexperienced arms on the roster. Names like Phil Bickford, Alex Vesia, Justin Bruihl, and Andre Jackson probably don’t give Roberts much confidence right now in the bullpen.
Chris Taylor, 31, Utilityman
We already went over why Taylor is important, so let’s talk about a potential contract. Spotrac gives Taylor a market value of over $11 million. Teams know how valuable a utilityman is. So, they’d be comfortable giving him a five-year deal up until age 36 or 37. That’s $50+ million that the Dodgers can’t give to Kershaw or Scherzer.
Michael Pineda, 32, Starting Pitcher
Pineda isn’t a huge name, but he’s been consistent, and that’s all the Dodgers need at the back of their rotation. Over his last two full seasons, he’s started over 20 games and has an ERA under 4.02. His former manager, Rocco Baldelli, speaks glowingly about Pineda. “He’s been about as important of a member of this group over the last three years as anyone. He’s been a constant, his performance has been a constant, his leadership has been a constant, and his personality, too, which matters.” Pineda wouldn’t be too expensive either, commanding a one or two-year deal worth less than $20 million.
Hansel Robles, 31, Relief Pitcher
Robles is one of the most underrated relievers on the market. His full 2021 numbers might not look great, but when he went from the Los Angeles Angels to the Boston Red Sox, he put it in another gear since he was in contention. Robles’ ERA saw a decrease of runs from Anaheim to Boston, striking out 33 batters in 25 innings. A one-year deal likely would work at less than $6 million.
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