Will Dodgers be big spenders at Winter Meetings?

December 5th, 2022

The Dodgers had a historic regular season in 2022, winning a franchise-record 111 games and capturing the National League West title for the ninth time in 10 seasons.

All that success didn’t end up mattering in the postseason, however, as the Dodgers were bounced by the Padres in just four games in the NL Division Series. Now president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Brandon Gomes will be tasked with building a team that not only maintains that level of dominance over six months, but also can continue that success in the postseason, something that has been a problem for Los Angeles.

The Winter Meetings are being held in San Diego for the first time in three years. You can almost certainly expect a lot of the dominoes to fall while the event takes place. Let’s take a look at where the Dodgers stand this offseason.

Key events

• Sunday, Dec. 4: HOF Contemporary Era Ballot results released (Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro, Curt Schilling)
• Monday, Dec. 5: All-MLB Team announced
• Tuesday, Dec. 6: Inaugural Draft Lottery, AL/NL Relievers of Year announced
• Wednesday, Dec. 7: Rule 5 Draft

Club needs

Starting pitching is the big need for the Dodgers. Signing Clayton Kershaw to a one-year deal definitely helps, but Los Angeles needs more, especially with Tyler Anderson signing with the Angels and Justin Verlander being taken off the market by the Mets. Either way, Los Angeles needs to figure out how it's going to add to its starting rotation -- either via trade or free agency.

On the position-player side, the Dodgers are still looking for a bit more clarity on their shortstop situation. Trea Turner is reportedly heading to the Phillies on a long-term deal. The Dodgers could now pivot to Xander Bogaerts or execute a trade. Or they could go with Gavin Lux, which is an idea they’ve already floated around. The Winter Meetings will surely provide a better picture of the club's thinking.

Potential trade candidates

There isn’t anyone on the Major League roster likely to get dealt. Cody Bellinger and Edwin Ríos would’ve been candidates, but both were non-tendered two weeks ago. On the prospect side, second baseman Michael Busch could be someone who gets moved in a deal for a solid starting pitcher. Busch is a very good prospect -- the Dodgers’ No. 4 per MLB Pipeline -- but there isn’t a clear path for him to make an impact at the big league level.

Prospects to know

Miguel Vargas (No. 3) and James Outman (No. 13) are the two prospects who are most likely to make an impact as soon as the season starts. Vargas finished the 2022 season on the big league roster, and the Dodgers will find even more ways to get him in the lineup next season. Expect Vargas, who has often said he feels his best position is in the batter’s box, to get 400-500 at-bats in '23.

On the pitching side, Bobby Miller (No. 2) and Gavin Stone (No. 7) will serve as key depth pieces for Los Angeles next season. Miller is the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect, but Stone has been more productive and looks more ready than Miller, who still has work to do in order to become a viable Major League starter. Both right-handers have incredible talent.

Rule 5 Draft

Given where the Dodgers’ roster stands, it would be a surprise if they took a player in the Rule 5 Draft. As for a player who could get taken, that would be outfielder Jose Ramos. Ramos is Los Angeles' No. 8 prospect and is a very gifted 21-year-old. However, Ramos hasn’t played above the High-A level, which would make it a pretty big risk for another team to take him, given that he would have to be kept in the Majors for the entire 2023 season.

Don’t expect much activity, though, at least not in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft.

Burning question: Will the Dodgers actually spend a lot of money this offseason?

With about a dozen free agents, the Dodgers have cleared nearly $100 million from last year’s payroll. But after blowing past the luxury tax in back-to-back seasons, that doesn’t mean Los Angeles will use all that money toward next year’s team. In fact, it’s almost expected that the Dodgers won’t use all the money they’ve freed up this offseason.

Even with that, the Dodgers will be involved in talks with just about every key free agent. Aaron Judge is widely expected to sign with the Giants or Yankees, but they’ll keep tabs on him. Carlos Rodón is also on the radar.

Just how much are they willing to spend? That should start to become more clear during the Winter Meetings.