Dodgers offseason wish list: L.A. could solve most of its problems by re-signing its own free agents

The 2021-22 MLB offseason is a few weeks old and we’re still waiting for the first major move to happen. That’s not unusual — like the MLB season itself, the offseason is a marathon rather than a sprint — though the impending expiration of the competitive bargaining agreement throws a giant wrench into the hot stove. Still, baseball’s offseason is underway.

With that in mind, we’re going to examine each prospective buyer’s offseason wish list over the next few days, continuing with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Let’s get to it. 

Starting pitcher(s)

The Dodgers made the first free agent signing of the offseason two weeks ago when they inked reclamation project lefty Andrew Heaney to a one-year contract. They need more rotation help than that, though. Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw are free agents and Trevor Bauer is likely to serve a suspension under MLB‘s domestic violence policy in 2022. The current rotation includes Heaney, Walker Buehler, Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin, and possibly David Price. There is room for improvement.

Wish list: Scherzer and Kershaw would be ideal. Even at age 37 and even after limping to the finish in 2021, Scherzer remains a bona fide ace and one of the best pitchers in the game. A high salary two- or three-year deal (high salary as in $35 million to $40 million per year, possibly even more) would make sense. Kershaw’s health is a question, though it’s also difficult to see him the franchise icon pitching elsewhere. Even if the Dodgers have to bring him along slowly in spring training and handle him carefully next season, keeping Kershaw around as rotation depth (with the potential to be a true difference-maker) seems like a win-win.

The Athletics are expected to sell and they have three arbitration-eligible starters who would presumably interest the Dodgers in Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea, and Frankie Montas. Bassitt and Manaea are a year away from free agency, Montas two. Righty Jon Gray seems like a classic “we’re going to take this guy and make him better than the Rockies ever could” free agent target. We can never rule the Dodgers out on a big money long-term deal for someone like Robbie Ray. My guess is they’re unwilling to do huge dollars for anyone but Scherzer and Kershaw, and will instead look to fill out the rotation with cheaper (but still effective) pitchers.

Replacing Taylor

It’s difficult to put a number on just how important Chris Taylor was to the Dodgers the last six years. WAR underrated him. Taylor hit .264/.341/.458 in nearly 2,500 plate appearances while playing every position other than pitcher, catcher, and first base during his time in Los Angeles. Plus he had a ton of postseason success too. Taylor is the very best super utility player in the game today and that makes him irreplaceable. Finding someone to fill that role and improving the bench in general is a top priority this winter.

Wish list: Taylor. Losing Corey Seager would certainly hurt, though the Dodgers can plug Trea Turner in at short and Gavin Lux in at second and not miss Seager too much. Replacing Taylor will be much more difficult. Players who are that productive and play that many positions (and play them well) are rare, so why try to replace Taylor when you could simply re-sign Taylor? He’s shown he can fill that very difficult, very valuable role, and the Dodgers would offer him a lot of money and also a chance to win. Seems like a good fit for both sides.

If the Dodgers aren’t going to re-sign Taylor (and Seager), it might be best to purse Marcus Semien to play second base, pushing Lux into that super utility role. Someone like Eduardo Escobar could work as well, though he is primarily an infielder with limited outfield experience. Right now the bench includes some combination of Matt Beaty, Zach McKinstry, Sheldon Neuse, and Luke Raley. I have to think Los Angeles will look to upgrade on that group this winter, and re-signing Taylor would be a great start.

Late-inning reliever

Kenley Jansen, the greatest closer in Dodgers history, is currently a free agent and not a lock to return. He was outstanding after adjusting his pitch mix at midseason and trading a few cutters for sliders, and he carried that excellence right through the postseason. The Dodgers don’t absolutely need to replace Jansen with another closer because they could easily insert Blake Treinen into the ninth inning. There is a need for a late-inning reliever though. Someone to push Brusdar Graterol and Alex Vesia back into the sixth and seventh innings rather than the eighth.

Wish list: The Dodgers could address just about all their needs by re-signing their own free agents and that applies here as well. Bringing Jansen back is preferable to spending big money on Raisel Iglesias or giving up prospects to get Craig Kimbrel. Los Angeles could go cheaper and re-sign Corey Knebel, who did fine work for them around an injury this year, but the Dodgers seem more likely to look for the next Corey Knebel, that buy-low reliever with upside, rather than pay for the real Corey Knebel. Again, the Dodgers don’t absolutely need a closer because they have Treinen. They do need a high-leverage reliever though, and reuniting with Jansen is the most straightforward solution. He’s still very good and he’s a known quantity.

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