Three questions still facing the Dodgers for 2022
LOS ANGELES – After falling two wins shy of returning to the World Series, the Dodgers feel like they have some unfinished business in 2022.
Now that they’re ready to take the field in Spring Training, let’s take a look at three key questions the team faces at this point in the offseason:
1. Do the Dodgers have a chance to land Freeman?
At the start of the offseason, it seemed like a given that Freddie Freeman and the Braves would agree to a long-term deal. But the longer those negotiations drag on, the more it seems like another team will end up signing the former MVP. The Dodgers, who continue to lurk, might be at the top of that list.
Los Angeles did its due diligence on the first baseman before the lockout. Freeman grew up in Orange County, so the opportunity to be closer to home is appealing. With Corey Seager signing with the Rangers and Max Scherzer bolting to the Mets, the Dodgers have some unused money for the roster. Freeman would help solidify their need in the lineup: a left-handed bat in the middle of the order.
2. Who’s the closer?
Since 2012, the Dodgers have relied on Kenley Jansen to be their primary closer. But with the longtime reliever a free agent and likely signing elsewhere on a lucrative contract, the Dodgers will need to figure out their plan for the ninth inning.
Moving Blake Treinen from setup role to closer appears to be the logical move, at least on the surface. Treinen was dominant last season, posting a 1.99 ERA in 72 regular-season appearances. The Dodgers, however, might choose to keep utilizing Treinen in the highest-leverage situation of a game and not exclusively in the ninth inning.
Doing so could open the door for Brusdar Graterol and Tommy Kahnle to get more save opportunities. Graterol had a strong second half of 2021, while Kahnle missed the entire season because of Tommy John surgery. He’s expected to be a full participant this spring.
Bringing back Jansen is also not completely out of the picture, though the Dodgers have to be preparing for life without the organization’s all-time saves leader.
3. What does the rotation look like?
We know Julio Urías and Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw will lead the Dodgers’ rotation next season. What we don’t know is how the Dodgers will fill out the rest of the starting staff.
The Dodgers signed Andrew Heaney to a one-year deal. He’ll have every opportunity to secure a spot in the rotation, though he has to fix the home run problem that plagued him last season. Tony Gonsolin, assuming he’s fully healthy from a shoulder injury that lingered all of last season, will also be in consideration. David Price could start, but he might be better suited for the bullpen at this stage of his career.
Kershaw's return gives the Dodgers some much-needed help. But there’s the uncertainty surrounding Trevor Bauer, as Major League Baseball continues to investigate sexual assault claims made against the right-hander.
Andre Jackson, Mitch White, Ryan Pepiot, Michael Grove, Bobby Miller and Landon Knack are other depth options for the Dodgers. Jackson and White got valuable experience in 2021, while Pepiot, Miller, Grove and Knack have yet to make their big league debuts.