PHOENIX -- The Dodgers always knew this offseason would be a big one for them. After being a bit more conservative in free agency last year and giving young players an opportunity to play more regularly in 2023, L.A. should have a decent idea of what it needs to address this time around.
What the Dodgers didn’t know, however, was that their offseason conversations would be starting this early after getting swept by the D-backs in the National League Division Series following the 4-2 loss in Game 3 on Wednesday at Chase Field.
How will losing in the NLDS in three of the last five seasons affect how the Dodgers view this offseason? Will there be any major changes? Those are all questions the organization will have to answer over the next few months before the squad takes the field at Camelback Ranch in February.
Was this the 'last dance' for Kershaw?
Clayton Kershaw has been honest about deciding his future on a year-to-year basis. After the 2021 season, the left-hander took his time in figuring out whether or not he would return, but ultimately signed a one-year deal with the Dodgers in March. Last winter, after finishing the season healthy, Kershaw wasted no time in re-signing with Los Angeles, agreeing to another one-year deal in November.
This season, though, things are different. Kershaw limped to the finish line with a left shoulder injury that was always more serious than he was willing to admit. His performance took a hit, especially in a six-run, one-out start in Game 1 of the NLDS, which will go down as arguably the worst outing of his career.
To Kershaw’s credit, he battled through the injury and posted for the Dodgers to close out the regular season. But where will he land on whether or not he wants to keep playing in 2024? Kershaw wasn’t ready to hint one way or another following Wednesday's loss.
“I’m not sure,” Kershaw said, when asked how he will approach this winter. “Just obviously a horrible way to end it, personally. But that’s ultimately not important. It’s just how I didn’t help the team win the series. … Process it however best you can. I don’t even know what that means, really. But, yeah, just go from there.”
In the past, Kershaw has said his decision to keep playing would be centered around how healthy he finishes a season and if he’s still willing to be away from his family, who live in Texas, during parts of the season. There’s a lot of unknown, and only Kershaw knows the answer.
But it’ll ultimately come down to the Rangers, another year in L.A., or the retirement of arguably the best Dodgers pitcher of all time.
The starting rotation needs a lot of help. How do they get it?
While the lack of offense played a big part in the Dodgers’ failure, the starting pitching never really gave the club a chance. Los Angeles' starting staff went just 4 2/3 innings in the three games, allowing 13 runs. That’s not going to fly if you want to win a World Series.
Next season, the Dodgers’ rotation doesn’t look much better, at least right now. Walker Buehler is expected back, but he’s coming off a second Tommy John surgery. Tony Gonsolin (Tommy John surgery) and Dustin May (right flexor tendon surgery) will miss the entire season. Bobby Miller should take another step forward. Ryan Pepiot, Emmet Sheehan and Gavin Stone will also be in the mix. Julio Urías was headed for free agency before being put on administrative leave in September following domestic violence charges. Kershaw’s future is unclear.
But is that enough? How do the Dodgers address those holes? Well, the free-agent market should be a strong one. Blake Snell, who will likely win his second Cy Young Award, headlines the class. He’ll, of course, be signing for more than $200 million. If the Dodgers want an ace, he’s the obvious answer.
Aaron Nola, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Eduardo Rodriguez, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery are some of the other top free-agent options. As for trades, the Brewers' Corbin Burnes and the Rays' Tyler Glasnow might become available. The Dodgers are expected to be in the mix, and this time, they might not be able to afford to whiff on their top targets.
Where do they fit in the Ohtani sweepstakes?
This winter will be the Shohei Ohtani offseason. And there’s no secret the Dodgers will be one of the biggest players to land the two-way superstar. Ohtani, though, won’t be able to pitch until the 2025 season after undergoing an unspecified right elbow surgery. Landing Ohtani would also mean the Dodgers can’t sign a designated hitter -- J.D. Martinez, for example -- to any sort of deal.
That won’t stop the Dodgers’ pursuit, as Ohtani is viewed by the organization as an elite player and an even better business chip. Whether or not they land him is one question. Whether signing Ohtani at the expense of addressing other issues actually makes the Dodgers a better team is another.
Those are all the things the Dodgers need to answer over the next few months as they try to decipher why there was more disappointment in October.