CARLSBAD, Calif. -- When president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman takes a look at his roster, he can’t help but to be excited about the core of players the club will be returning in 2022. They believe it’s a collection of talent that will help them win six more games than they did in ‘21.
But when Friedman takes a look at some of the players that officially became free agents last week, he can’t escape the fact that there are a lot of prominent contributors that have entered the market, particularly Clayton Kershaw.
Friedman and his staff face one of the most interesting winters since he took over in 2014. Let’s take a look at a few things Friedman talked about regarding the Dodgers’ outlook this winter.
Decision not to extend Kershaw a qualifying offer
The Dodgers faced a tough decision before Sunday’s qualifying offer deadline. Los Angeles could have offered Kershaw a qualifying offer that, if accepted, would have locked him up for the 2022 season at $18.4 million. Instead, the Dodgers only extended the offer to shortstop Corey Seager and utility man Chris Taylor.
Why exactly did the Dodgers not extend the offer to Kershaw? Well, the left-hander is still recovering from a left elbow injury that ultimately ended his season. He received a PRP injection in October. The expectation is that he’ll be ready by Opening Day.
But because of the injury, Kershaw isn’t particularly ready to make a decision on his future. The Dodgers say they didn’t want to force a timetable on him, therefore an offer wasn’t extended.
“I think just with our respect for him and for what he’s done for this organization, that wasn’t something that we wanted to do and put him on that kind of clock when he wasn’t ready for it,” Friedman said. "If he wants to come back, we will absolutely work together to make that happen. If he doesn’t for whatever reason, that’s his right. He is going to drive a lot of what he wants to do next year.”
What’s the latest with Jansen and Kelly?
Much like Kershaw, Kenley Jansen has been an integral part of the Dodgers’ success for a decade. The right-hander had a bounceback season in 2021, recording 38 saves and eliminating any chatter about a potential change at closer. That success sets him up to have plenty of suitors this offseason.
“He had an unbelievable year; he’s had an unbelievable Dodgers career up to this point,” Friedman said. “For him, it’s just about figuring out what’s best for him and his family. Obviously, what offers are and how it compares to other offers are a big variable in that. … If he’s back with us, we get to continue moving forward and trying to win a championship. And if not, we can speak more about what he has meant to this organization. But it’s early.”
Though there’s interest on both sides, the Dodgers won’t necessarily engage in a bidding war with other teams for a closer, even one of Jansen’s caliber. They have Brusdar Graterol and Blake Treinen, both of whom could step into the closer role. Or, they could decide to go into the season without a set closer, giving manager Dave Roberts an opportunity to mix and match in order to get the best matchups.
One added option could be Joe Kelly. The Dodgers declined Kelly’s club option over the weekend, but they're very interested in bringing back the right-hander. Kelly suffered a right biceps injury in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the Braves but is recovering and will be ready for Spring Training.
“Joe is one of a kind. I love what he brings to a clubhouse. Awesome competitor,” Friedman said. “He’s another guy that we’ll very much be in the mix for. He and [his wife] Ashley get to go through and figure out what makes sense for them. We have a lot of balls in the air with some really talented players that are free agents.”