Important decisions the Dodgers need to make this offseason

October 16th, 2022

LOS ANGELES — After a franchise-record 111 wins during the regular season, the Dodgers’ hopes of winning a second World Series title in three seasons came to a disappointing end with a 5-3 loss to the Padres in Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Saturday night.

“It’s hard to even think about it right now,” Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “If you don’t win the World Series, it’s just disappointment right now.”

That disappointment will linger for the Dodgers, who were the favorites to at least come out of the NL and play in the World Series. It was one of the most accomplished teams in franchise history, but the 2022 team will chalk the season up as a failure because it didn’t accomplish its ultimate goal.

With that being said, the focus will soon have to turn toward next season. And it’s going to be a crucial offseason for Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.

The Dodgers have been very active in free agency over the past few seasons, but they also have a handful of key players who could elect to leave. Let’s take a look at three important roster decisions the Dodgers will need to answer over the next few months.

  1. What’s in Clayton Kershaw’s future?
    There was plenty of uncertainty with Kershaw last offseason. He went into the winter without being able to throw a baseball due to a left forearm injury. His options were simple: Play close to his Dallas-area home with the Rangers, return to the Dodgers or, if he didn’t recover well enough, maybe retire.

This offseason, Kershaw is healthy and is coming off another outstanding season on the mound. He battled through a pair of back injuries, but his arm held up all season. Following the Dodgers’ Game 4 loss, Kershaw said he was planning on returning in 2023. Now, that could change. Or if he does pitch in ’23, it could be with the Rangers.

But as of now, it appears Kershaw and the Dodgers, who will desperately need starting pitching next season, will likely find a way to reunite.

“I think so. We’ll see what happens,” Kershaw said. “Going home and being around and being a full-time dad changes your perspective on things, but as of right now, I will say I’ll play again.”

  1. Does Trea Turner come back?
    This will be the biggest question for the Dodgers this offseason. Turner has been one of Los Angeles’ best players since joining the team in July 2021 at the Trade Deadline. Because of his success, Turner will be one of the most wanted free agents in what appears to be one of the best shortstop markets in quite some time.

Turner will look for a massive deal. Depending on how the market moves, the Dodgers might not be willing to meet his asking price, much like when the Rangers blew Corey Seager away with a 10-year, $325 million deal last offseason.

There’s also the strong likelihood that Turner, a Florida native, wants to return to the East Coast.

A lot of that will depend on Turner’s suitors and how the market develops over the next two months.

If the Dodgers don’t bring back Turner, they could elect to go with Gavin Lux at shortstop to start the season and allocate their resources in other areas of the roster. Or they could go after one of the free agent shortstops, which include the Braves’ Dansby Swanson and Carlos Correa, who is planning to opt out of his deal with the Twins.

  1. The Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner cases
    For three seasons, Bellinger was well on his way to being one of the best players in the Majors. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2017. He followed that up by winning the NL MVP in ’19.

Since then, Bellinger has been one of the biggest disappointments for the Dodgers. He was one of the worst qualified hitters in the Majors in 2021, posting a 44 OPS+, which is 56 points below league average. This season, Bellinger wasn’t much better at the plate, finishing with a .210 average.

But perhaps the lowest point for Bellinger came in the postseason as the Dodgers benched him in Games 3 and 4 for Trayce Thompson and Chris Taylor. Bellinger took one pinch-hit at-bat in the eighth inning in Game 4, flying out to center field.

Bellinger is arbitration-eligible for one more year and is projected to make $18.1 million, according to MLB Trade Rumors’ arbitration model. Do the Dodgers want to pay that much money to someone they don’t trust enough to start in crucial postseason games? That’s something they’ll need to answer.

As for Justin Turner, L.A. holds a $16 million team option for next season that includes a $2 million buyout. Turner, who will be 38 in November, has struggled at the plate in each of the past two postseasons, going 6-for-47. Max Muncy showed he was capable of handling the duties at third base, and the Dodgers also have No. 3 prospect Miguel Vargas, whom they would like to get more involved next season.