5 crucial questions the Dodgers face this offseason
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LOS ANGELES -- After a disappointing end to the season, the Dodgers have a lot to think about before the start of the offseason, which happens right after the World Series.
Los Angeles will again be one of the favorites to win the title next season. The club still has Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman on the roster. But there are plenty of questions that president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman will have to answer.
1. Who will play shortstop?
This will be one of the biggest questions the Dodgers will have to answer this offseason. Trea Turner is an unrestricted free agent, and he’ll be a hot commodity in a robust market. Turner will look for a massive deal, the type of which the Dodgers didn’t feel comfortable giving to Corey Seager last offseason. There’s also the possibility that Turner would prefer going back to the East Coast since he is from Florida.
If not Turner, then who? Well, the in-house option is Gavin Lux, who came through the Minors as a shortstop. Lux has improved every season, but he hasn’t played many games at the position over the past couple of years. Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa could also be options.
2. Do the Dodgers have enough rotation depth?
Once free agency begins, only Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May will be under contract. Clayton Kershaw, Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney are all free agents, unless the Dodgers decide to extend a qualifying offer, which is certainly in play with Kershaw and Anderson. If that happens, Los Angeles' starting staff will be in better shape, though there are still health concerns with May and Gonsolin.
Prospects Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot and Gavin Stone, the Dodgers' No. 7 prospect, are all expected to contribute at some point next season. Pepiot struggled in his limited appearances this season. Miller still needs more polishing. Stone took the Minors by storm in 2022.
3. What happens with the closer role?
Given how things went this season, it’s unlikely Craig Kimbrel will pitch for the Dodgers next year. If he doesn’t return, which is the expected result, Los Angeles has a decision to make: Should it sign a closer or continue with the closer-by-committee strategy the club deployed into the postseason?
That answer will determine how aggressive the Dodgers might be in the free-agent and trade markets. They also have some in-house options with Evan Phillips, Blake Treinen and Yency Almonte.
4. Where will Vargas play?
Miguel Vargas is one of the young players the Dodgers want to find more playing time for next season. The 22-year-old struggled a bit in his first taste of the Majors, but his tools at the plate are very clear. Most scouts project Vargas to develop into a really good hitter because of his bat-to-ball skills.
However, Vargas has some work to do on the defensive side, and that will ultimately determine where -- and how much -- he plays. The upcoming decision on Justin Turner’s $16 million club option will be one to watch. If the Dodgers decide to part ways with Turner, Vargas will be the logical replacement to share time at the hot corner with Max Muncy. If Turner is back, left field and possibly second base would be options for Vargas.
5. Can Bellinger bounce back?
It’s been quite the career for Cody Bellinger, and he’s only 27 years old. His first three seasons in the Majors were impressive, but the past two seasons haven’t been good enough, particularly at the plate.
After an encouraging postseason in 2021, the Dodgers were very hopeful that Bellinger would return to form. He was a year removed from right shoulder surgery and was finally fully healthy. Unfortunately for Bellinger and the Dodgers, the results just weren’t there this season. That forced Los Angeles to bench Bellinger for the two most important games of the season.
MLB Trade Rumors projects Bellinger to make approximately $18 million next season, his last year of arbitration. Do the Dodgers believe Bellinger can improve at the plate after two disappointing campaigns? If the answer is yes, then rolling the dice on the 2019 NL MVP is an easy decision. But if they believe Bellinger is a .650 OPS hitter moving forward, it might not be worth paying that price for a defensive-minded center fielder.
Either way, it’s going to be an offseason of tough decisions for the Dodgers.