CARLSBAD, Calif. -- The baseball offseason began in earnest this week at the annual General Managers Meetings, as executives from all 30 clubs gathered to begin the process of forming their rosters for the 2022 season and beyond.
The Hot Stove should heat up in the coming weeks, but here's a look around the National League at some of the more intriguing storylines that came out of the first two days of this year's meetings.
Kershaw controlling his destiny
Some found it curious when the Dodgers declined to extend an $18.4 million qualifying offer to Clayton Kershaw last week, but Andrew Friedman, the team's president of baseball operations, noted that with the left-hander recovering from the elbow injury that cut his 2021 season short, the Dodgers didn't want to impose a timetable on Kershaw to make a decision about 2022.
"I think just with our respect for him and for what he's done for this organization, that wasn't something that we wanted to do and put him on that kind of clock when he wasn't ready for it," Friedman said. "If he wants to come back, we will absolutely work together to make that happen. If he doesn't for whatever reason, that's his right. He is going to drive a lot of what he wants to do next year."
Had Kershaw received a qualifying offer, he would have had to accept or reject it within 10 days.
Pitching the key to Padres' offseason
General manager A.J. Preller said this offseason's priority would be starting pitching, which comes as no surprise after San Diego was forced to use arms including Vince Velasquez and Jake Arrieta down the stretch.
The Padres added Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove last winter, but adding to the rotation for 2022 will be imperative as San Diego looks to rebound from its disappointing finish.
"We're constantly looking for depth -- numbers and quality," Preller said. "Some of it's going to come through the system. We have some talented young pitchers. We've got to get them to take another step in their development process so that they're real options for us at the Major League level."
Mike Clevinger, who missed the season following his second Tommy John surgery, should be a "full go" by Spring Training, while Dinelson Lamet could also return to the rotation depending on how his spring goes.
Then there's MacKenzie Gore, who was rated as MLB Pipeline's top pitching prospect a year ago, spent much of 2021 working at the Padres' complex in Arizona, though he did ultimately pitch in the Minors and in the Arizona Fall League.
"He's back throwing the ball well, from a stuff standpoint." Preller said. "Velocity, quality of his pitches -- I think that was a big positive for him. … He'll be the first to tell you, he's got to tighten up on a few things, get a little sharper with some things -- his secondary pitches and fastball command.
"It was fun seeing him back out there. He has some dominant moments. Now we've got to make that more consistent."
Marlins on the hunt for offense
The Marlins ranked 29th in the Majors in runs scored in 2021, so it's no surprise that Miami is "in pursuit of some really good offensive players" this offseason, according to general manager Kim Ng.
Ng said the Marlins will have the ability to sign free agents this winter, though her search for offense won't necessarily be limited to that market.
"It could be exclusively free agency," Ng said. "But that's why we're talking to all these clubs, too, is to figure out who's got bats available. Until we have an understanding of the whole market, we probably won't be able to determine how that's actually going to go."
One area Ng has no plans to address is shortstop. Despite the glut of premier free agents at the position, Miami is set there with Miguel Rojas, leaving the Marlins other positions one which to concentrate.
Phillies looking for impact
Bryce Harper might win his second National League Most Valuable Player Award this month, but the Phillies are hoping to add another impact bat to pair with him in the middle of their lineup.
"It's not easy," president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. "We have some guys that are legitimate hitters; like [Rhys] Hoskins is a really good hitter. I do think [new hitting coach] Kevin Long is going to help us with some of the guys that we have. … If you put one other person with [Harper] that would be ideal for us."
Whether the Phillies go the free-agent route to fill that hole remains to be seen, but Dombrowski is weighing his options and could get creative as he searches for answers.
"Well, I guess we'll wait and see," Dombrowski said. "The other thing you could do is you could play two people in a position to do that, so you don't have to necessarily have one person. You could find two, somebody that's really good vs. right-handed, somebody who is very good vs. left-handed pitching. Right now, it's early enough that we're just starting this process that we're kind of open-minded anyway."
Giants focused on their own
The Giants met with representatives for both first baseman Brandon Belt and starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani during the GM Meetings, hoping to bring back both players on new multiyear deals.
Belt received an $18.4 million qualifying offer, though president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said he didn't yet have a sense of whether the first baseman plans to accept it by next week's deadline.
"He had a great couple of seasons," Zaidi said of Belt. "We'd love for him to be part of the team. … I assume we'll have conversations with a multiyear deal, as well. But I know accepting the [qualifying offer] is a possibility, and he'd be very happy with that."
DeSclafani -- who signed a one-year, $6 million deal with San Francisco for 2021 -- didn't receive a qualifying offer, as Zaidi said he the pitcher had earned the right to have the security of a multiyear deal after his solid season.
"I think some of it for us was he sort of did the one-year thing and had a good year," Zaidi said. "We just felt in this case he was a guy who had earned and would thrive with the security of a multiyear deal, so that's what we're talking about with him. So that was a factor.
"Ultimately, it's an economic decision, but I think where he is in his career, what he did this year, kind of having the ability to go the multiyear route was important to him, and that's why that's kind of been our conversation with his group."
Following the Giants' 107-win season that saw the pitching staff post the second-best ERA in the Majors, Zaidi had received positive feedback from agents with free-agent pitchers on the market.
"In our early conversations in the market, there's been a lot of interest in pitching for the Giants," Zaidi said. "We had a really good season. People want to pitch for a winner. They believe in our pitching group and the ability they have to get the most out of them."