LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Dave Roberts won't be managing Shohei Ohtani or Giancarlo Stanton next year, but with most of a 104-win World Series club returning, he said the Dodgers are in a better spot than a year ago.
"As an organization, you've just got to continue to move forward," Roberts said in a Winter Meetings news conference. "We've got a pretty good nucleus already and obviously intrigued by those two players. But we're moving on."
Roberts said he is moving on with Kenta Maeda back in the starting rotation after an impressive postseason in the bullpen; with Alvin Toles expected to be healthy after knee surgery and competing in Spring Training for an outfield job; and with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez likely to return for the final year of his contract at the same position Cody Bellinger plays.
Gonzalez's situation could get sticky. The 35-year-old suffered a herniated disk that ruined most of his 2017 season but created playing time that Bellinger converted into stardom. Gonzalez can only play first base or designated hitter, but the remaining $21.5 million salary coming off a serious injury makes him virtually untradeable.
"I see him on our team right now, and Adrian, you don't get to be the player that he is if you can't overcome some adversities," Roberts said. "Obviously, this is a different time in his career, and you're dealing with injuries. But I've had conversations with Adrian, and he'll definitely bet on himself. He's healthy and looks to compete to get at-bats. I see Adrian on our ballclub and contributing."
• Winter Meetings interview with Dave Roberts
To that end, Roberts said Bellinger's ability to play all three outfield positions provides flexibility to get both in the lineup, if the situation calls for it.
With bullpen coach Josh Bard becoming the bench coach for the Yankees, Roberts revealed that he has a second staff vacancy to fill because quality-assurance coach Juan Castro has taken a job in the Mexican League.
Roberts echoed president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman's focus on restocking the bullpen after the apparent loss of setup man Brandon Morrow (his physical with the Cubs is still pending) and possible loss of lefty reliever Tony Watson.
He said top pitching prospect Walker Buehler, the Dodgers' No. 1 overall prospect (per MLBPipeline.com) who relieved during a September callup, will go back to starting. Roberts didn't have a recent update on Julio Urias, who had been recovering nicely from shoulder surgery and is expected to pitch at some point next year.
Roberts said he wasn't surprised to hear that Yu Darvish, who stuggled in two World Series starts against the Astros, was tipping his pitches, according to an unnamed Houston player.
"We had conversations about that with Yu and trying to kind of pin it down," he said. "Obviously, we weren't successful. I think that there's something to that, but there's also a lot more, for me, to execution, where I think that you could view that there just wasn't a lot of execution going on."
Roberts said he will "slow-play" some players during Spring Training, being mindful of the long postseason.
Speaking of that postseason, Roberts was asked how long it takes to get over losing Game 7 of the World Series.
"Gosh. I don't know if you ever get over it," he said. "Especially if you go to Game 7, and a lot of things could have been different, a pitch here, a pitch there, maybe change the outcome. But you still go through your mind and what you could have done possibly different to potentially influence it, but at the end of the day, it is what it is, and you learn from it.
"You've got to get back up to the top of the mountain. It is good knowing that we have a lot of guys that have been part of some big games in the last few years, some very meaningful games, and there's a lot of value in that. So, I'd argue that our guys are as hungry as anybody in all of baseball to be that close. We'll be right there in the mix again."