A new year brings new opportunities, and this Dodgers ballclub will look radically different from last year’s team. Last year’s Los Angeles squad lost to the San Diego Padres in the NLDS, three games to one. This disappointing outcome came after winning a franchise-record 111 games in the regular season and boasting an offense that ranked first in MLB in OPS and runs scored as well as a pitching staff that ranked first in MLB in ERA, WHIP, and opponent batting average against. This offseason presented challenges financially that led to the loss of some long-time players and impact players for the 2022 team.
Although the Dodgers played like juggernauts during stretches of the regular season, their offense went cold in the playoffs. Moving forward, the Dodgers went into the offseason with plenty of holes to fill on their roster before they return to Dodger Stadium this spring.
2022 Record: 111-51, First Place in NL West
Team MVP: Freddie Freeman
Team Cy Young: Julio Urías
The Dodgers were led by a triumvirate on offense consisting of Freddie Freeman, Trea Turner, and Mookie Betts. Those three combined for 335 runs scored and individually led the team in multiple categories. Turner led the team in stolen bases with 27, Betts led the team in home runs with 35, and our pick for Team MVP Freddie Freeman led the team with a .325 batting average, 47 doubles, and led all of MLB with 199 hits.
Although he trailed Tyler Anderson for the team lead in innings pitched by 3.2 innings, Julio Urías was consistently the best pitcher for the Dodgers in 2022. He led the pitching staff in games started with 31, boasting a 2.16 ERA in 175 innings pitched, a 0.960 WHIP, and a team-leading 166 strikeouts. All these statistics and more led Urías to being the top Dodger pitcher and place third for the 2022 NL Cy Young Award.
Notable Free Agents:
|Player||Position||Relevant 2022 Statistics||Offseason Deals|
|Trea Turner||SS||.298 AVG / .346 OBP / .809 OPS / 21 HR / 100 RBI||PHI: 11 yrs / $300 million|
|Tyler Anderson||SP||15-5 W-L / 2.57 ERA / 138 K / 178.2 IP / 1.002 WHIP||LAA: 3 yrs / $39 million|
|Clayton Kershaw||SP||12-3 W-L / 2.28 ERA / 137 K / 126.1 IP / 0.942 WHIP||LAD: 1 yr / $20 million|
|Justin Turner||3B||.278 AVG / .350 OBP / .788 OPS / 13 HR / 81 RBI||BOS: 2 yrs / $21.7 million|
|Cody Bellinger||OF||.210 AVG / .265 OBP / .654 OPS / 19 HR / 68 RBI||CHC: 1 yr / $17.5 million|
|Craig Kimbrel||RP||22 SV / 3.75 ERA / 72 K / .227 BAA / 1.317 WHIP||PHI: 1 yr / $10 million|
Areas of Need Entering the Offseason: SP, SS, 3B, OF, RP
From the list above of major Dodger free agents entering the offseason, only one, longtime Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, re-signed with the team. The Dodgers saw longtime contributors like Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger leave for the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs respectively. Additionally, both Trea Turner and Craig Kimbrel join a Philadelphia Phillies team hoping to return to the World Series after losing to the Houston Astros. Finally, the Dodgers’ 2022 innings leader, pitcher Tyler Anderson, took a short drive down the I-5 to Anaheim and signed with the Angels on a multi-year deal, cashing in on his successful campaign last year.
The Dodgers lost their starting shortstop, their third baseman, their centerfielder, their starting pitcher with the most innings pitched on their team last season, and a reliever who served as their closer for the majority of the 2022 season. These departures, while not all unexpected, left the Dodgers’ roster resembling a piece of Swiss cheese with positional holes all over the baseball diamond.
Offseason Free Agent Signings and Potential Future Moves
A big hurdle for the Dodgers this offseason was managing to stay under the luxury tax without knowing the status of Trevor Bauer’s suspension appeal. Now that the Dodgers have a clear picture of the monetary logistics surrounding Bauer, they will owe him $22.5 million once they decided to designate him for assignment last Friday. Since Bauer’s actions “warranted the longest ever active player suspension in [MLB] for violations of [MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy]” he has become deadweight and his contract will become dead money for the Dodgers once he is released or signs with another team.
To start filing in the team’s holes, the Dodgers signed starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard to a one-year, $13 million deal. The Dodgers hope that his performance can improve now that he is more than two years removed from his Tommy John surgery that repaired the UCL tear he sustained while on the Mets in 2020.
In a surprising move, the Dodgers signed designated hitter J.D. Martinez to a one-year, $10 million deal. Usually, the Dodgers prefer players that have positional versatility, but the hope is that Martinez’s bat can replace the offensive production lost by letting Justin Turner go. With this move, Martinez reunites with hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc, who worked with Martinez in 2013 to recreate his swing.
Other signings for the Dodgers include signing outfielder Jason Heyward to a minor league deal in the hope that he can provide big league depth at some point this season, signing pitcher Shelby Miller for a bullpen role, and trading with the Tampa Bay Rays for relief pitcher J.P. Feyereisen.
With the Dodger-Bauer situation cleared up, the front office understands its payroll situation heading into arbitration and pre-arbitration negotiations. Spotrac and FanGraphs have the Dodgers with a projected payroll of $205.5 million and $217 million respectively (Fangraphs included projected player benefits, amateur bonuses, and minor-league costs).
It doesn’t appear as if the Dodgers will be making any other big free agent signings this offseason if they want to remain under the luxury tax threshold of $233 million. To fill the shortstop position, the expected move is to shift Gavin Lux from second base to shortstop and fill second base with a number of options including Max Muncy, Chris Taylor, and potentially AAA prospect Michael Busch. Top prospect Miguel Vargas is expected to get a good look at third base, while James Outman, who debuted last summer for the Dodgers, could share some time in centerfield with Trayce Thompson around the beginning of the season.
With prospects emerging into key roles for the Dodgers in this upcoming season, it appears as if a youth movement is on the horizon in Los Angeles. How the young players fit and perform will be a big indicator as to whether the Dodgers can continue to play at a championship level in 2023 and beyond.
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