LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers knew they were going to stare at plenty of tough roster decisions this offseason, but they hoped those would be resolved after another World Series title.
That isn’t the case, however, as the Dodgers came six wins shy of their ultimate goal. Now, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman faces, arguably, his most important winter since he took over in 2014.
Here are five questions the club faces this offseason.
1. Who plays shortstop?
Corey Seager is one of the many impending free agents the Dodgers will look to bring back this offseason. But of the group, the star shortstop is expected to lock up the biggest payday. The Dodgers, of course, have never been shy about spending money, as evidenced by their $267 million payroll this season, but they’ll have to outspend some other willing teams for the 2020 NL Championship Series and World Series MVP.
If the Dodgers retain Seager, the answer is simple: He will be their Opening Day shortstop. If Seager walks, the Dodgers will then go to Plan B. And it’s not a bad one. Trea Turner, who was acquired from the Nationals on July 30, would slide from second base to shortstop, the position he has played most of his career.
Turner led the NL with a .328 batting average this season, but struggled to perform in the postseason. Keeping Seager would also give the Dodgers another left-handed presence in the lineup to pair with Max Muncy. In a perfect world, the Dodgers keep both Seager and Turner for the next decade. But that appears to be unlikely.
2. How do you replace Chris Taylor?
The Dodgers have some high-profile free agents, but Taylor might be the most invaluable player of the bunch. Taylor, 31, is also expected to have a robust market after becoming a first-time All-Star in '21. He hit 20 homers this season, one shy of his career-high. Taylor also hit four homers in the postseason, including a three-homer game in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the Braves.
But what makes Taylor difficult to replace is his ability to play at least average defense at multiple positions. That allowed manager Dave Roberts to give other players a day off. Trying to keep Taylor will be at the top of the list for Friedman and the Dodgers. But if Taylor goes elsewhere, they’ll have to rely on Zach McKinstry to fill that super-utility role.
3. How will they rebuild the starting rotation?
After entering Spring Training with eight capable Major League starters, the Dodgers will begin the winter with Walker Buehler and Julio Urías as the only locks in the rotation. Trevor Bauer, who is still being investigated by MLB after spending the last four months of the season on paid administrative leave, could also factor in, but the Dodgers won’t count on him until the situation is resolved.
Bringing back Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw, who are both free agents, would quickly help the Dodgers address their needs in the rotation. But the two future Hall of Famers will have several teams interested in their services, particularly Scherzer, who made a bid for a fourth Cy Young Award this season.
Tony Gonsolin could be a bounceback candidate after a tough '21 season, but his inconsistencies make him hard to trust. Andre Jackson and Mitch White made solid impressions. Prospects Bobby Miller, Landon Knack and Ryan Pepiot could also play a role. The Dodgers have options, but rebuilding the rotation will be a project for Friedman and his staff.
4. Will Kenley Jansen be back?
Jansen has recorded 350 saves with the Dodgers, the most by any reliever in franchise history. After a pair of down seasons, he returned to form in '21, posting a 2.22 ERA and recording 38 saves.
But as dominant as Jansen was this season, the Dodgers might be hesitant to engage in a bidding war with the plethora of teams that are expected to be in the market for a dominant closer.
The Dodgers’ bullpen was one of the best in the Majors. Most of those arms are expected back in '22. Los Angeles also has Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol waiting to take over in the ninth inning, each coming at a lower cost than Jansen. The Dodgers will pursue Jansen in free agency, but it won’t come as a shock if the right-hander is wearing a different jersey next season.
5. Where does Gavin Lux play?
Lux began the season as the team’s everyday second baseman, but he was sent down to Triple-A Oklahoma City after he struggled at the plate. Los Angeles then traded for Turner, which crowded the middle infield.
Once the Dodgers got Turner, Lux came up with the idea to try the outfield. He spent the majority of the last month of the season playing center field. Lux struggled defensively in the outfield, but showed much improvement at the plate, finishing the season with a .360 average in his last 17 games.
Some of the Dodgers’ offseason moves will be made with Lux in mind. But first, they’ll have to figure out if they see him as a middle infielder or a developing utility man.