Clock is ticking on Dodgers' 3 big decisions

November 9th, 2022

LAS VEGAS -- The Dodgers will be faced with plenty of difficult roster decisions over the next couple of months. On Tuesday, they wrapped up some minor moves, declining club options on , and , making them all free agents.

Over the next couple of days -- and weeks -- the Dodgers will be faced with some bigger decisions, particularly regarding three of their longest-tenured players in , and .

Let’s take a look at where things stand with those three players and how those decisions will impact the rest of the Dodgers’ offseason.

Justin Turner’s club option
The first big move the Dodgers will make this offseason will be deciding what the future holds for Turner. As of Tuesday, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said they have not made a decision on Turner’s $16 million club option for next season.

Los Angeles could opt to pick it up and have Turner on the roster next season or it could pay him a $2 million buyout and try to negotiate a cheaper deal that would help alleviate the payroll. One thing is certain, however, and that's that the Dodgers are very much open to the idea of having Turner back next season.

“He is a priority for us in terms of him being with us,” Friedman said. “The priority is that when we show up in Glendale, [Ariz.], for him to be a part of what we’re doing next year. What exactly that looks like, we need time to work through.”

Turner had a tough start to 2022, but he picked things up in the second half, finishing the regular season with a .788 OPS. The veteran third baseman did struggle in the postseason, when he had a hard time catching up to high velocity.

If Turner is back next season, which sounds like a strong possibility, he’ll likely see most of his time as the team’s designated hitter. and will get plenty of looks at third base. Getting Vargas more at-bats this season will be another priority for the Dodgers.

Cody Bellinger’s contract
Bellinger is arbitration-eligible for one more season, coming off a 2022 campaign in which he earned $17 million. Given Bellinger’s struggles at the plate in each of the past two seasons, there’s the possibility the Dodgers could non-tender the 2019 NL MVP and 2017 NL Rookie of the Year, which would make him a free agent.

Now, the Dodgers have a few weeks to make that decision. But part of their calculation will come down to how much they believe Bellinger can have a bounce-back season at the plate. Could they afford to have what could amount to a $20 million defensive specialist in center? That’s something they’ll need to answer, and quickly.

“We still very much believe in Belli’s ability and we got to see firsthand how hard he worked throughout the season,” Friedman said. “Obviously, he’ll be the first to tell you that it was below the expectations that he has for himself. And right now, I know he’s working with our [hitting] guys and doing everything he can to put himself in position to be a real force for us next year. But we still have time to work through what everything looks like.”

Clayton Kershaw’s qualifying offer
On Thursday, the Dodgers will also have to decide whether or not they will extend Kershaw a qualifying offer, which turns into a one-year deal if accepted by the player. Last offseason, the Dodgers elected to not extend Kershaw a qualifying offer in order to give him more time to weigh his options.

His probable options are no secret. It’s either to remain with the Dodgers or play for the Rangers, which would allow him to play closer to his hometown of Dallas and spend more time with his family. The expectation is the Dodgers won’t extend Kershaw a qualifying offer. But if Kershaw decides he wants to be a Dodger, Friedman said they’ll make sure that’s a priority this winter.

“Things just feel more right in the world when Kershaw is wearing a Dodgers uniform,” Friedman said. “That’s just how it lands with us. But [we] couldn’t respect more that him and Ellen are going through this process. It’s definitely a real priority for us and [we're] hopeful he will be with us in Glendale.”