The Dodgers had plenty to be thankful for this season. They set a new franchise record with 111 wins. Los Angeles claimed the National League West for the ninth time in 10 seasons. And Dodgers fans got to watch Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner play on the same team.
While all those are things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, none of it seemed to matter once the Dodgers had an early exit in the postseason, losing to the Padres in the NLDS in four games.
How can the Dodgers help all of you be even more thankful next year? A World Series championship would definitely help. Let’s feast our eyes on a few areas the team needs to address over the next two months.
The deal to bring back Clayton Kershaw hasn’t been made official, but there’s no need to worry -- that’s going to happen soon. Kershaw will be a Dodger next season, but Los Angeles still needs to add at least another quality starter to the rotation.
As of now, the Dodgers are rolling with Julio Urías, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Kershaw. May and Gonsolin haven’t proven they can be consistently good options for an entire season. Gonsolin was excellent last season, but he spent chunks of the past two seasons dealing with right shoulder and forearm injuries.
The Dodgers are hoping Ryan Pepiot, Michael Grove, Bobby Miller and Gavin Stone all take big leaps in their development next season. But right now, those four arms are viewed as depth options. The Dodgers need to go get an impact arm.
Justin Verlander could be the perfect option for the Dodgers, but they’ll have to outbid the Mets, Yankees and Astros, all of whom have interest in the likely Hall of Famer. Signing Verlander would also eat up a large chunk of L.A.'s payroll, which isn’t expected to be anywhere near where it was in each of the past two seasons. (Editor's Note: Verlander is reportedly heading to the Mets on a two-year deal).
The Dodgers have been in contact with Trea Turner, and those conversations are expected to continue throughout the offseason, but the reality is starting to sink in that Turner likely won’t be playing in Los Angeles in 2023. Turner, arguably the best shortstop on the market, will get a long-term contract. (Editor's Note: Turner would go on to reportedly sign a long-term deal with the Phillies at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.)
If Turner does head elsewhere, which is the expectation as of now, the Dodgers could stay with Gavin Lux as their in-house option. They could also try to sign Xander Bogaerts, who might be slightly cheaper than Turner. The more realistic option, however, is that the Dodgers don’t sign any of the top four free-agent shortstops. A trade for the Brewers’ Willy Adames makes too much sense and the Dodgers have shown interest, but it remains to be seen if Milwaukee is ready to unload its franchise shortstop.
The Cody Bellinger era in Los Angeles might’ve come to an end on Friday as the 2019 NL MVP was non-tendered by the Dodgers. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said they have interest in bringing Bellinger back, but that’s going to be difficult given that the center fielder will have a pretty healthy market now that he’s a free agent.
Letting Bellinger go ultimately came down to the Dodgers’ unwillingness to pay the outfielder about $18 million in his last season of arbitration. Los Angeles was interested in working out a deal to bring Bellinger back for cheaper, but that was never really on the table. The Dodgers also tried to trade Bellinger, but no other team was willing to acquire him for that price.
Though the decision was difficult given Bellinger’s early success, the reality is that he had been a below-average hitter for about two and a half years. Maybe he’ll benefit from a change of scenery.
As for the Dodgers, letting Bellinger go opens up a spot in the outfield. Chris Taylor and Trayce Thompson are both capable of playing center field. But if Los Angeles wants an upgrade defensively, going after a player like Kevin Kiermaier makes a lot of sense. Kiermaier plays just as good -- if not better defense -- than Bellinger and would sign for much cheaper. The only concern is that Kiermaier is coming off left hip surgery.