Dodgers end 2022 early with lots of questions, including futures of Clayton Kershaw, Trea Turner

The regular season’s best team was shockingly sent home in the NLDS

The Los Angeles Dodgers were eliminated from MLB’s postseason on Saturday night, losing Game 4 of their National League Division Series to the San Diego Padres. The Dodgers, who won a majors-leading 111 games during the regular season, will now slink into the offseason with just a single postseason victory to show for their efforts.

Instead of spending their hours over the next week plotting how to win the NL pennant against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Dodgers will now have additional (albeit unwanted) time to figure out their winter plans. One of the key questions facing the Dodgers this offseason, the status of longtime ace Clayton Kershaw for next season, may have already been answered as part of his post-game press availability.

“Yeah I think so, but. No buts, I think so,” Kershaw told Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic about his intent to play in 2023. “We’ll see what happens. Going home and being around and being a full-time [parent]changes your perspective on things. But as of right now, I’d say I’ll play again.”

Presuming the Dodgers hold the inside track on signing Kershaw — the Texas Rangers, the closest thing he has to a hometown team, have long been identified in rumors as a potential suitor — that still leaves several pressing matters for Andrew Friedman, Brandon Gomes, and the rest of Los Angeles’ front office to sort through. Below, we’ve addressed three of those notable issues in a handy subhead format.

  1. Will Roberts return?
    Dave Roberts occupies an unenviable position in the baseball ecosystem: he’s a potential future Hall-of-Fame skipper who seldom receives present-day credit for his team’s accomplishments. What Roberts does receive is a lot of blame whenever the Dodgers fall victim to October’s variance. Roberts has won 63 percent of his regular-season games since taking the reins in 2016. He’s led Los Angeles to three pennants and the 2020 World Series title. And yet, here we are again, writing about his job security.

Even accepting that unexpected things happen all the time in baseball, Roberts would appear to be safe (the Los Angeles Times says Roberts is expected to return in 2023). He signed a three-year extension back in March that stretches through the 2025 season. How’s that for job security? In theory, the Dodgers could fire Roberts and eat the extension; in practice, why would they? Roberts isn’t the reason their lineup went cold. You can question some of his pitching-related decisions, but let’s be real: it seems unlikely that he (or any manager these days) is operating without accepting some guidance from the front office on those matters.

Maybe this is a misread of the situation and the Dodgers do reverse course seven months after committing to Roberts for the foreseeable future. Our guess, though, is that Roberts will endure. Heck, he might even spur this debate again next fall.

  1. What happens at shortstop?
    Here’s where things get interesting. The Dodgers have the means to retain impending free-agent shortstop Trea Turner if they so desire. That Friedman and Gomes did not work out a long-term extension with Turner, the way they did with Mookie Betts after obtaining him in a trade, makes us wonder if the Dodgers will at least contemplate some of the other options available to them this offseason.

That isn’t a knock on Turner, who will be a sought-after commodity. This winter just so happens to boast another good free-agent shortstop class. Dansby Swanson and Turner could be joined by Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts, both of whom have the ability to opt out of their contracts in favor of testing the open market. The Dodgers could also turn to the trade market, though the options there seem more limited.

Internally, the Dodgers’ top candidate is Jacob Amaya. He’s a good fielder who reached Triple-A over the summer. He seems unlikely to be the answer, however, unless the Dodgers are much higher on his offensive ability than anyone realizes.

  1. And the rotation?
    We mentioned Kershaw in the introduction. He’s one of three Dodgers starters heading for free agency, joining Andrew Heaney and Tyler Anderson. Heaney and Anderson were bargain-bin signings last winter (they made $16.5 million combined), and both are in line for substantive raises following breakout campaigns.

Whether or not the Dodgers try to retain one, two, or all three of the above is to be determined. Clearly Friedman and Gomes have a penchant for identifying veteran starters who could benefit from Los Angeles’ analytical and coaching insights, meaning that they might just unearth the next Anderson and Heaney and use the financial savings elsewhere.

Friedman and Gomes don’t have to commit to a total overhaul, the way that most teams would when 60 percent of their rotation is potentially on the outs. They have the luxury of continuing to employ Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin, and Dustin May. It doesn’t hurt their peace of mind that Walker Buehler will be working his way back from Tommy John surgery, or that the Dodgers have a wealth of young arms who are either big-league-ready or close to it, including Ryan Pepiot, Andre Jackson, Bobby Miller, and Gavin Stone.

In other words, the Dodgers are going to continue to be good. It’s just a matter of who and what their operation entails, and if it’ll hold up next October.