Check out my 2022 Season Review of the Dodgers here.
Image: Chris Coduto / Getty Images
After yet another disappointing early playoff exit, many fans in Los Angeles have begun to demand for the Dodgers to cut ties with manager Dave Roberts. However, despite his history of recent playoff blunders, this doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen anytime soon, as Los Angeles re-signed their skipper through the 2025 season earlier this year.
Even though the Dodgers are likely not planning any managerial changes this winter, they are challenged, for the second straight offseason, with having to fill holes left by the departure of a number of key pieces on the field.
With eleven impending free agents and another four on team or player options, the Dodgers could potentially have more than $150 million in contracts coming off the books this winter. However, they will be losing a lot of value in the process, with this group combining for 18.3 fWAR in 2022. Los Angeles will likely do whatever they can to retain as much of this talent as possible before they are forced to turn to free agency and trades.
Trea Turner, the free agent group’s fWAR leader, will be the Dodgers’ biggest priority to begin the offseason. After a year in which he slashed .298/.343/.466, earning a second straight all-star nod, Turner will likely demand a massive deal along the lines of what former Dodger Corey Seager got last offseason. Los Angeles should not be the team to reward him with this, as much of the speed that makes Turner so effective on both offense and defense will fade as he ages. There will be plenty of options in free agency.
The next item on Los Angeles’s agenda will be re-signing franchise ace Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw missed time with injuries once again in 2022, but was dominant as always when healthy, recording a 2.28 ERA and starting the All-Star game in Los Angeles. He has stated in interviews that he would like to keep playing for the Dodgers, but there is also a chance he chooses to pitch close to home for the Rangers, or maybe even retire. Bringing him back to Los Angeles is a no brainer absolute must.
Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney provide two interesting cases for the Dodgers, as both had breakout campaigns in 2022. Given their success this past season, one can imagine that both southpaws will be seeking a larger, multi-year contract. If Los Angeles decides that the prices for Anderson and Heaney aren’t worth matching, as I believe they will, they will likely turn to the free agent market and gamble on one-year deals like they did with these two a year ago.
One of the bigger disappointments for this Dodger club in 2022 was closer Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel went 22-for-27 in save opportunities and registered a career low in K/9 for Los Angeles. With his struggles and the Dodgers’ depth in the bullpen, it’s safe to say that they will let the reliever walk.
Joey Gallo was a trade deadline acquisition for the Dodgers, who were hoping to reform him to the player he was when he hit close to 40 home runs every season. This did not happen, as Gallo continued to struggle at the plate, walking less and striking out more than he did previously in his career. Los Angeles likely will not retain him either.
Another, more successful, trade deadline addition for the Dodgers was reliever Chris Martin. Martin was great in his two months in Los Angeles, recording 34 strikeouts and only one walk. At 36 years old, he will likely regress over the next few seasons, but Martin could be a solid, and cheap, depth piece for the bullpen and I’d like to see the Dodgers keep him around for another year.
David Price announced earlier this year that he was strongly considering retirement after the conclusion of the 2022 season. If he follows through with this, his 167 ERA+ and 1.165 WHIP for Los Angeles this season will be a solid conclusion to what was potentially a Hall of Fame career. If not, he doesn’t need to be in Dodger blue next year.
Tommy Kahnle pitched well for the Dodgers in limited innings after returning from Tommy John Surgery, recording a 2.84 ERA. Like Martin, Kahnle could provide Los Angeles with another cheap depth arm, but I don’t think they will re-sign him.
Kevin Pillar was signed prior to the 2022 season to provide the Dodgers with outfield depth, but missed the majority of the season with shoulder surgery. With his age and the emergence of Trayce Thompson, it’s hard to justify Los Angeles bringing him back for 2023.
Heath Hembree only pitched in six games for the Dodgers, as he was mainly a fill-in for injured arms, recording a 7.94 ERA across those appearances. Hembree will almost surely be wearing a new uniform come next spring.
Injured List Moves
Walker Buehler is the biggest name on the 60 day IL, as he announced at the tail end of the season that he would be having his second Tommy John Surgery. Given that Buehler is expected to miss the majority, if not all, of the 2023 season, he will be staying on the injured list.
Another arm on the 60 day IL is reliever Daniel Hudson, who, after suffering a torn ACL, is hoping to be ready for Spring Training. Thus, he will likely be activated.
Jimmy Nelson is expected to remain on the 60 day IL if the Dodgers choose to pick up his club option, as he is still recovering from his own Tommy John Surgery.
One last arm on the shelf is Danny Duffy, who, like Nelson, also has a team option for the 2023 season. Dealing with a variety of injuries, his fate will be discussed further in the next section.
Infielder Jacob Amaya was added to the 60 day IL at the end of the season with an undisclosed injury. Without context on his injury, it’s hard to speculate on when he could be back.
Options to be Executed
The Dodgers’ biggest decision on options will be with fan favorite and clubhouse leader Justin Turner. Turner started slow, but picked it up in the second half, finishing with a 123 wRC+. Los Angeles will have to decide whether he is worth his $16 million option for 2023, which, if exercised, would make him the third-highest paid player on their roster. My guess is that they will decline this option in hopes to sign him to a more team-friendly deal if he doesn’t retire.
Speaking of fan favorites, Hanser Alberto has a club option for 2023 as well. Alberto struggled offensively and wasn’t good enough defensively to make up for it. The Dodgers should move on from him.
Jimmy Nelson will miss a large chunk of next season no matter where he is, as he is still recovering from Tommy John Surgery. However, Nelson was fantastic before the injury in 2021 and his option is cheap, at $1.1 million. Los Angeles should pick up his option, as he will be a beneficial late-year supplement to what is shaping up to be yet another great bullpen.
Long-time Kansas City Royal Danny Duffy is in a position similar to Nelson’s, with a club option for 2023 and an injury to recover from. However, Duffy’s recent injury history is much more extensive than Nelson’s and his future looks much more pessimistic as a result. Thus, the Dodgers would benefit from declining his option and letting him walk.
Arbitration Eligible Players
The Dodgers have twelve different players eligible for arbitration this winter. Most of which are core players the club would obviously want to keep around. Let’s start with those guys.
As I’m writing this, Julio Urias has just been announced as a National League Cy Young finalist. Although he won’t win, even though I am of the opinion that he should, his NL-leading 2.16 ERA should be more than enough to warrant a new contract for 2023. Walker Buehler is another huge name here. Although he is currently recovering from a second Tommy John Surgery and nobody knows how effective he may be when he comes back, letting this perennial Cy Young candidate walk would be idiotic. Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May are both easy choices here as well. Both are young and cheap, have track records of success, and are necessary pieces to bring back for a rotation that may enter the offseason with multiple holes.
Out of the bullpen, Brusdar Graterol, Caleb Ferguson, and Evan Phillips are obvious candidates to get their contracts renewed. All three of which played a significant role out of the Dodger bullpen in 2022, with Phillips being arguably their best reliever. On the hitters side, Will Smith is a no-brainer, coming off a year in which he established himself as one of the best catchers in baseball.
Two less obvious players are Yency Almonte and Trayce Thompson. Almonte and Thompson both emerged during the middle of the season and performed very well, with a 1.02 ERA and .901 OPS, respectively. Both should definitely be re-signed for 2023, but neither player has had much career success prior to 2022, and both are out of minor league options so they will both be on a short leash if they struggle next year.
That leaves us with two more arbitration eligible players. Edwin Rios provides an interesting case, as he has been an above average hitter for the entirety of his career, but found himself spending a significant portion of 2022 in the minors, as the Dodgers didn’t have a roster spot for him. This leads me to believe that Los Angeles may not be very invested in keeping him on the major league team, but I think he profiles well, and should be re-signed to provide the team with some left-handed power depth at the least.
Cody Bellinger is by far the biggest question mark of the arbitration-eligible group for Los Angeles. Coming off another down year in which he had a .654 OPS and 150 strikeouts, Bellinger is projected to earn a whopping $18.1 million through arbitration. This is all-star money for a guy who hasn’t played anywhere close to an all-star level in over two years now. However, letting Bellinger go risks him regaining his MVP form with another club, and creates a gaping hole in centerfield for the Dodgers defensively. Thus, with the newfound financial flexibility the Dodgers have this offseason, I believe they will bite the bullet and give him one last chance to prove himself in his final year of arbitration.
Rule V Draft Eligible Players
The Dodgers are in an interesting position when it comes to the Rule V Draft, as the majority of their eligible minor leaguers are either top prospects or guys who aren’t appealing enough to deserve a 40-man roster spot. Hence, I will only mention some of the bigger names you should know.
The biggest priorities of players to protect are the three eligible top 100 prospects the Dodgers boast. Diego Cartaya hasn’t taken an at-bat higher than A+, but has torn up every level of the minor leagues he’s been at so far, with a crazy hit tool and a strong arm behind the plate.
Michael Busch hit well enough at AAA last season to deserve a call to the bigs, but it didn’t quite happen. With some of the infield and left-handed depth leaving for free agency, he may have a significant role on the Dodgers right off the bat.
Andy Pages, an outfielder, slashed .236/.336/.468 in AA in 2022 and projects to be a strong power bat and an average to above average defender at the major league level. All three players are expected to make their Major League debuts in 2023, so adding them to the 40-man roster shouldn’t be much of an issue anyway.
Moving outside of MLB’s top 100 prospects, Jose Ramos is an intriguing option. Although he is Rule V Draft Eligible, Ramos is still in High-A ball, and not nearly as good of a hitter as Cartaya. Thus, his Major League ETA probably isn’t until 2024, and the Dodgers may be able to get away with leaving him off the 40-man roster for another year.
Victims of the Roster Crunch
With all the impending free agents the Dodgers have combined with the lack of Rule V eligible players to add to their 40-man roster, Los Angeles may not have any victims of roster crunch at all. However, there are a couple names that I believe would be the first to go.
Phil Bickford struggled in 2022, recording an 89 ERA+, often serving in mop up duty for the club. He is out of minor league options and should be the first to be designated for assignment if the Dodgers need to free up a spot on their 40-man. Next after him would likely be Andre Jackson. Jackson has actually been good for Los Angeles, posting a 2.11 career ERA, albeit in only seven appearances. However, at 26 years old, the Dodgers may prefer to give his roster spot to one of the younger options they have in their minor league system.
For the same reason as the lack of roster crunch players, there aren’t many Dodgers I would list as potential trade-aways. Their only big contracts are tied to superstars who are still producing at an elite level and most of their veterans are on affordable deals.
The one name I will mention once again, however, is Edwin Rios. As I mentioned before, the Dodgers have seemed to be neglecting Rios of late. This is despite the corner infielder having a successful career thus far, with a .491 slugging percentage and a stretch where he was hitting home runs at one of the highest rates in the league. I don’t think Rios will be traded, but given how the Dodgers have used him as well as the inevitable emergence of Michael Busch, I wouldn’t be surprised if they chose to move on from the lefty power hitter.
Lineup After In-House Moves
Major League Lineup (8)
C – Will Smith (R)
1B – Freddie Freeman (L)
2B – Gavin Lux (L)
SS – OPEN
3B – Max Muncy (L)
RF – Mookie Betts (R)
CF – Cody Bellinger (L)
LF – Trayce Thompson (R)
DH – OPEN
OF – OPEN
UTL – Chris Taylor (R)
Despite losing a few key pieces from the 2022 offense, the Dodgers will still be returning a lineup full of stars. Will Smith will be the starter behind the dish, while Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts will be the anchors once again in the infield and outfield, respectively.
Gavin Lux will be back at second base unless Los Angeles strikes out on acquiring a shortstop through free agency or trades. Max Muncy is currently slated to get the majority of starts at third and Cody Bellinger will likely be manning center field once again.
I listed Trayce Thompson as the left fielder and Chris Taylor as the utility player, but in reality you could rotate them between any of the LF, OF, and UTL spots without much of an argument. Taylor has the better career numbers and will likely bounce back from what was a down year in 2022, but Thompson has outperformed him recently, so, for now, Thompson gets the nod in left.
Players on the 40-man (10): C Austin Barnes (R), C Diego Cartaya (R), INF Jacob Amaya (R), INF Michael Busch (L), INF Eddys Leonard (R), INF Edwin Rios (L), INF Miguel Vargas (R), INF Jorbit Vivas (L), OF James Outman (L), OF Andy Pages (R)
Barnes will be returning to the squad as the backup catcher once again. Rios’s role on the team is in question, but he is the best bat off the bench as it stands right now. Vargas and Outman both saw at-bats at the big league level in 2022, with Vargas struggling and Outman doing well. Expect Vargas to figure it out and make a big impact for the club next season, especially against left-handed pitching, while Outman could earn the bench outfield spot with a solid spring. Cartaya, Busch, and Pages are all top 100 guys and it wouldn’t be surprising to see all three in the everyday lineup by season’s end. Lastly, Amaya, Leonard, and Vivas are all intriguing young prospects that could get their shot in 2023 as well.
Potential Lineup Additions
Middle Infielder (1)
FA Jean Segura
Segura would provide Los Angeles with a cheap and versatile right-handed bat to move around the infield. In this situation, he would most likely get his starts at second base, with Gavin Lux moving over to short. Segura’s career history of avoiding whiffs and strikeouts could be very attractive to a Dodgers front office who values just that. He has been an above average hitter and defender for almost all of the past seven seasons and could fill a hole while the club hopes for breakouts from Miguel Vargas and Michael Busch.
FA Carlos Correa and FA Dansby Swanson
Dodger fans look away. Correa left the land of the banging trash cans to prove that he could produce elsewhere and boy did he do that, recording a 140 wRC+ in Minnesota in 2022. In addition to his offensive prowess, Correa also brings to the table elite defense that has previously earned him a Platinum Glove award, making him one of the best shortstops in baseball.
Swanson actually performed better than Correa in 2022, combining excellent hitting with his own elite defense to finish second in the MLB to Francisco Lindor with a 6.4 fWAR. He earned his first all-star nod and gold glove this past season, and his career seems to be trending significantly upward.
Both players are expected to demand quite the hefty contract, but with all the money the Dodgers have coming off the books, each should be easily affordable. Correa has a more extensive track record of performing at an elite level and is seven months younger than Swanson, but his history of squabbles with current Dodger players in regards to the Astros 2017 cheating scandal may make his fit in Los Angeles a bit uncomfortable. I believe the Dodgers should push hard for one of these two or Trea Turner, as the middle infield market looks thin beyond the top names.
FA Joc Pederson and FA Michael Conforto
How about a reunion? Pederson was exceptional in 2022, registering a 144 wRC+ with the Giants, almost exclusively in a platoon role against right-handed pitching. He could reprise this role with the Dodgers, as they have right-handed hitting Trayce Thompson and Chris Taylor who they can rotate with Pederson in left field.
Conforto could be an interesting option for Los Angeles. Having last played a major league game back in 2021, Conforto is coming off a shoulder surgery that has surely hampered his value. Thus, the Dodgers can buy low on the left fielder who finished in the top 20 percent of hitters in both walk rate and chase rate during his last full season.
FA Aaron Judge
The Dodgers will always be in the mix for free agents of Judge’s caliber. However, this move doesn’t make too much sense unless Los Angeles chooses to non-tender Cody Bellinger and slide Mookie Betts over to center field. Regardless, Judge is coming off a record-setting 2022 and would add another MVP to a star-studded Dodger lineup.
FA Jose Abreu
The designated hitter here really just means an extra bat, as the Dodgers often use their DH spot to get players off their feet. However, Los Angeles should use this extra position in their lineup to add depth to a lineup that was often top-heavy last year. Signing Abreu, who was productive once again in 2022, would give the Dodgers both of the 2020 MVP’s, and a solid right-handed bat in a currently lefty heavy lineup.
FA Josh Bell
Bell had a resurgent 2022 season, recording a 123 wRC+ and 2.0 fWAR, both his highest since his 2019 all-star campaign. Being a switch hitter, he can provide Los Angeles with at-bats against either handedness pitching. Nevertheless, the likeliest move for the Dodgers to fill this position is to just re-sign Justin Turner.
Pitching Staff After In-House Moves
Major League Pitching Staff (9)
SP1 – LHP Julio Urias
SP2 – RHP Tony Gonsolin
SP3 – RHP Dustin May
SP4 – OPEN
SP5 – OPEN
CL – RHP Blake Treinen
SU – RHP Evan Phillips
SU – LHP Alex Vesia
SU – RHP Daniel Hudson
MR – RHP Brusdar Graterol
MR – LHP Caleb Ferguson
MR – RHP Yency Almonte
LR – OPEN
With the departures of Clayton Kershaw, Tyler Anderson, and Andrew Heaney to free agency, the 2023 starting rotation suddenly looks alarmingly thin. Julio Urias is returning as the ace of the staff, while Tony Gonsolin looks to build on what was a breakout year for him in 2022. Dustin May will finally get a full season in the rotation to showcase his electric stuff and figure out some of the command issues that were plaguing him late this past season.
The bullpen is where things get interesting. I currently have Blake Treinen listed as the closer, but they could very well end up going with Evan Phillips, or Daniel Hudson, or maybe no closer at all. Alex Vesia seems primed to get the high-leverage role against left-handed hitters once again and Brusdar Graterol will continue to attempt to harness his insane fastball. Yency Almonte and Caleb Ferguson were both great in 2022, but flew under the radar due to the success of some of the other guys previously mentioned, and will be playing key roles for the team next season.
Injured Players on the 40-man (1): RHP Walker Buehler
Players on the 40-man (4): LHP Justin Bruihl, LHP Victor Gonzalez, RHP Michael Grove, RHP Ryan Pepiot
The Dodgers’ don’t seem to have too much pitching depth on their 40-man roster. Buehler is the biggest name to note here, as he will spend the majority of 2023 recovering from his second Tommy John Surgery. Bruihl and Gonzalez have had success with the club and could both very well end up in the Opening Day bullpen. Grove is viewed as a depth piece to be used sparingly when injuries hit the big league rotation, while Pepiot is a top prospect with an electric changeup who may end up starting a large chunk of games for Los Angeles next year.
Potential Staff Additions
Starting Pitcher (3)
FA Noah Syndergaard
Syndergaard could be an interesting project for the Dodgers. Although his fastball velocity has plummeted since his best days in New York, he was still limiting free passes at a high level, finishing in the 86th percentile in walk rate. Opponents hit .218 off Syndergaard’s slider in 2022, and Los Angeles could reform his arsenal, as they’ve done to others before, to induce more whiffs and weak contact.
MIA Pablo Lopez
Turning now to a trade candidate rather than a free agent, Lopez is someone the Dodgers could have their eye on this winter. Miami had been shipping around the young starter at the trade deadline before ultimately deciding to keep him, and they may try again during the offseason, as he still has two full seasons until he hits the free market. Lopez finished 2022 with a 3.75 ERA and was above average, but not great, in terms of strikeouts, walks, and hard hit rate. Los Angeles and their development could certainly bring more out of him.
LAA Shohei Ohtani
With starting pitcher and designated hitter both listed as needs for the Dodgers, why not kill two birds with one stone and trade for the two-way phenom? I could go on and on about all of Shohei’s mind-boggling accomplishments and “Tungsten Arm” O’Doyle moments, but we know all about those already. The haul for Ohtani would be one of the biggest in major league history, but Los Angeles has the farm to pull it off, boasting a league-lead seven top 100 prospects. This pick is obviously a long shot, but man would he look good in Dodger blue.
FA Rafael Montero
Montero was one of the better stories of 2022. Coming into the season with a career 5.18 ERA, he turned it around for the Astros, finishing with a 163 ERA+ and pitching pivotal innings during their World Series run. His seemingly random breakout career arc would fit in perfectly with the Dodgers’ current group of arms.
FA Aroldis Chapman
I’m not sure if this one makes sense, but who doesn’t want to see the Cuban Missile get another chance? Averaging 97.5 miles per hour on his heater in 2022, Chapman is still throwing the ball hard. His issue of late has not been with his stuff, but instead his command, finishing with his highest walk rate since 2011 last season. Los Angeles could take a flier on Chapman and dig into this problem in an attempt to bring him back near his elite form.
FA Kenley Jansen
Another reunion! Jansen often gets mixed reviews for his time in Los Angeles, but his 350 career saves for the franchise should not go unappreciated. The reliever has said in interviews that he wouldn’t mind becoming a Dodger again, and the fit is interesting. Wherever Jansen goes, he will likely want to be the closer, but if he were to choose Los Angeles, I think he would perform best in a middle relief or setup role, out of the spotlight and pressures of a 9th inning high leverage situation.
What’s Going to Actually Happen?
There have been quite a few massive names listed in this article. It would be unrealistic to say that the Dodgers acquire all of these superstars, but, with the financial flexibility they have this offseason, I’d predict that they’ll come away with at least one of Correa, Swanson, Judge, Ohtani, or even Jacob deGrom.
They could also choose to stay cheap, promoting prospects to fill holes and signing guys we all think suck then turning them into all-stars. For a team with this massive of a payroll, Los Angeles loves to pretend they are the Tampa Bay Rays.
The real true outcome of the Dodgers’ offseason is likely going to be somewhere between these two extremes. They will sign one or two huge names, then fill out the roster with one-year experiments. However, don’t be surprised if Los Angeles tries something drastic this winter, as another early playoff exit has certainly raised frustrations for this club and their fans.