What to watch for Dodgers at Winter Meetings

November 29th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Juan Toribio's Dodgers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

After several disappointing postseason appearances, the Dodgers are expected to be among the most aggressive teams this offseason. With December approaching, the Dodgers have yet to make any moves outside of agreeing with Jason Heyward on a one-year deal on Monday.

But with the Winter Meetings in Nashville set to begin on Sunday, the Hot Stove is sure to be sizzling, and once again, the Dodgers will be linked to just about every big-time free agent moving forward.

This year’s Winter Meetings have the potential to be one of the craziest in recent memory. Let’s take a look at a few storylines to follow leading into the event.

1. Can the Dodgers finally land Shohei Ohtani?
There’s a path for the Dodgers to have a really good offseason regardless of what happens in their pursuit of two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, the biggest free agent to hit the open market in a very long time. You could even make an argument that there’s a way for the Dodgers to have a more well-rounded offseason if they don’t sign Ohtani to a lucrative deal, given he won’t be able to pitch until the 2025 season.

But the reality is that Los Angeles will largely be graded on whether it can add Ohtani. He’s the biggest prize in the sport, one the Dodgers have had their eyes on for nearly a decade. The Dodgers were believed to be the favorite to sign Ohtani when he came over from Japan after the 2017 season. He ended up signing in Southern California, but with the Angels, instead.

The Dodgers have a second bite at the apple and are, once again, viewed as the favorites. With Ohtani being the big fish, the free-agent market hasn’t moved as quickly as previous years. Because of that, there’s a real possibility that Ohtani picks his next team by the end of the Winter Meetings. Will that be the Dodgers? The entire baseball world is waiting for that decision.

2. Will they add a couple frontline starters?
Say the Dodgers do land Ohtani; that still doesn’t answer the big concerns they have in the starting rotation. Those questions will have to be addressed over the next few weeks.

Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May realistically won’t be available to pitch in 2024 after both underwent Tommy John surgery in '23. For May, his procedure was the second of his career. Walker Buehler should be healthy in '24, but will likely be on an innings limit. Clayton Kershaw will be sidelined until at least July after undergoing left shoulder surgery -- that is, of course, if he re-signs with the Dodgers.

That leaves Los Angeles with a lot of young talent, but also several unknowns. Can Bobby Miller handle the responsibility of being a staff ace? That seems like a lot to ask for at this point in his career. Emmet Sheehan, Ryan Pepiot and Gavin Stone all showed potential and could be solid arms in 2024. Landon Knack, Kyle Hurt and Nick Frasso should also help.

But if the Dodgers learned something during the postseason, it’s that you need top-end starters to make a deep run in October. This free-agent market has a lot of them, led by two-time Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell and Japanese phenom Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

Snell has the proven track record in the Majors and, when healthy, has arguably the best pure stuff of any left-hander in the game. How Yamamoto adapts to the Majors is more of an unknown, but evaluators drool over the 25-year-old’s skillset. The starting pitching market has gotten going already with Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson signing with the Cardinals, Kenta Maeda signing with the Tigers and Aaron Nola staying with the Phillies.

When it’s all said and done, the Dodgers will sign or acquire a top-end starter at some point this winter. If they want to realistically contend for a championship, they need two.

3. Will the Dodgers look to acquire some more offense?
Adding Ohtani (see, everything revolves around him) would definitely do the trick. Imagine a lineup with Ohtani, Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith and Max Muncy at the top. That’s terrifying for opposing pitchers.

If Ohtani signs elsewhere, the Dodgers will need to get to work. Bringing J.D. Martinez back would definitely be in play. Adding another offensive-minded outfielder like Teoscar Hernández also makes a lot of sense. At shortstop, they could also benefit from adding a big bat because of Miguel Rojas’ offensive limitations. Getting Gavin Lux back from injury should help, however.