In his annual Winter Meetings media briefing on Thursday, there were two huge changes from the previous four winters for Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
One, it was virtual. Two, there were no questions about what went wrong in the postseason.
“A lot of it is validation,” Roberts said. “You are in this to win championships. Having done that for the city, for the organization, I think certainly is a lot of validation.”
Two months into celebrating a World Series win, Roberts said there initially was more relief than elation, and now joy. And when he thinks about 2021 and what’s needed for a repeat, his wish list of a leverage reliever and a right-handed hitter is aligned with last week’s comments from club president Andrew Friedman.
Roberts, though, said he stays out of the negotiations, so he had little to offer on the possibility of third baseman Justin Turner’s return. Turner could be that right-handed bat, but so could DJ LeMahieu, as rumors have it. Roberts said he hasn’t “really gotten into” discussing free agency with the 36-year-old Turner, who reportedly is looking for a three-year contract.
“He’s going to kick the tires on whatever is available to him,” Roberts said. “He’s way up there (on the offseason priority list). He’s one of the Dodger greats; he really is. His body of work is special and unique, but it’s a two-way deal here. Selfishly, I’ll take him for as long as I can have him.”
Now that Blake Treinen, Pedro Báez and Jake McGee are free agents, Roberts understands that more help is needed in a bullpen that has already added reclamation projects Corey Knebel and Brandon Morrow and re-signed swingman Jimmy Nelson. The most likely target for that is free agent Liam Hendriks, although he’s on the shopping list of many clubs.
So, even after winning it all, Roberts holds to his belief that shaking up the roster every winter is beneficial.
“I just believe change -- infusing new life and new energy -- for me, I think is a good thing,” he said. “Adding new pieces is always welcome for me, but they have to fit.”
Roberts, a cancer survivor, said he’s confident MLB will play a complete season in 2021, and added that he plans to be vaccinated when it is available to him.
Roberts also ran through a handful of other hot topics:
On whether David Price will pitch in 2021 after electing not to play in 2020 because of the pandemic: “No, I’m not [sure]. David is very in tune with what’s going on, very intelligent. I don’t know. My hope -- I love being around him, and we’re better when he’s with us -- but as things become more clear, David will make a choice for him and his family.”
Price, responding Thursday on Twitter about whether he'll play in 2021, tweeted: “That’s the plan.”
On Cody Bellinger’s recovery from right shoulder surgery: “He’s rehabbing at Camelback Ranch [in Arizona]. He’s recovering well, ahead of schedule. What that means, I really don’t know. The hope is that he will be somewhat active when we start Spring Training. Everyone’s optimistic. It won’t change his position. I don’t see how he won’t be our center fielder.”
On uncertainty over the NL designated hitter: “We’re going about it as if there won’t be, and if there is, like we used the DH this year, we kind of used it as kind of a half-day of rest and rotating guys in and out.”
On the three-batter-minimum rule: “I thought I would really hate the three-batter minimum. I don’t think it accomplished the initial goal, to speed up the game. As far as strategy, that’s a strategy in itself.”
On the pivotal moment of 2020: “The easy answer is that day in August when ultimately Major League Baseball and the players decided to protest the game [against social injustice]. That was really something I will never forget. That was really powerful. That was very galvanizing.”
On restricting defensive shifts: “I don’t know if the shift is the sole reason why there isn’t a batted ball in play. It kind of goes to compensation, what players value, what agents and the industry and the fans [value], whether they value action and not just the strikeout, homer and the walk. How do we get there? Is it the ball? The player? Is it the height of the mound?”