More than a month into the offseason, it’s been a strong one for players where many of the best free agency contracts have exceeded expectations. While a lot of aggression came from teams that were not traditionally top dogs like the Mets, Padres and Rangers, the Dodgers have been unusually quiet so far.
The Dodgers opened the 2022 season with a $281 million payroll, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. By the end of the year, a large number of players made free-casting and wiped out a large pile of changes from the books. Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Craig Kimbrel, Trea Turner, Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney All of them were making significant bucks in 2022 before they hit the open market, with a few mid-season recruits and role players leaving as well. The Dodgers then cleared even more money by not bidding cody bellinger and the projected $18.1 million arbitration fee, as well as the reduced Justin Turner$16 million club option for 2023.
With all that said, it was certainly a possibility that the club would spend the winter wildly and raise their payroll to last year’s levels. But the Dodgers have been largely disrupted so far, with freelancers coming off the board with dazzling deals. Since the start of the off-season, the club has re-signed Kershaw and added Shelby Miller in one-year deals for $20 million and $1.5 million, respectively. These contracts increase the club’s 2023 payroll to $173 million per Squad Resource, with a competitive balance tax figure of $189 million.
That leaves the Dodgers with plenty of room to work in some sense. This pure payroll figure is more than $100 million below the figure they carried last year, and this CBT figure is more than $40 million behind the lowest CBT threshold. They’re just playing a long game, waiting for the frenzy at the beginning of the season to subside, and looking for bargains later in the winter. However, there are also reasons to suspect that they can remain fairly inactive.
for one thing, there Trevor Bauer situation to consider. The club signed him to a three-year, $102 million deal leading to the 2021 season, but Bauer made only 17 starts for them. He went on administrative leave in July 2021 as the league investigated allegations of assault against him. In April 2022, he received a two-year suspension covering the last two years of his contract with the Dodgers. This suspension was free and cleared Bauer’s salary from the club’s commitments.
However, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times recently wrote about Bauer’s attempt to challenge this suspension, and an arbitrator is expected to make a decision this month or next. If the suspension breaks completely, the Dodgers will have to pay him a salary of $32 million each for both 2022 and 2023. This is true even if the club immediately released Bauer after this decision. That’s a fair amount of money in itself, but Shaikin points out that the Dodgers are the luxury tax payers this year, potentially having to pay extra for Bauer’s reinstated salary. In terms of 2023, the club’s CBT figure will exceed $220 million. Shaikin also points out that it is only possible to have the penalty reduced, which would put the club in trouble for some, if not all, of that money.
This decision will have a huge impact on the club’s financial outlook going forward, so it makes sense for them to want to wait and get some clarity before making big commitments. Still, there are more traditional baseball reasons to play the waiting game. The departure of aforementioned free players has created many gaps in the roster, but with strong leads they can fill them internally. On Baseball America’s most recent top 100 list, the Dodgers featured seven players, six of which were in the top 52. MLB Pipeline’s roster also includes seven Dodgers. FanGraphs rises slightly less, but still puts five young Dodgers in the top 100.
Not only are these prospects highly respected in the sporting community, but they are often close to or already in the majors. right-handed ryan pepiot Made his MLB debut in 2022 while other rights holders Bobby Miller and Gavin Stone Reached Triple-A. Third goalkeeper miguel vargas He broke the main branches this year while he was the second baseman. Michael Bush spent most of the year in Triple-A. outfield player Andy Pages Having spent the year at Double-A is not far behind. catcher Diego Cartaya A little further away, he’s spent most of this season in High-A but has performed well and will likely be in Double-A from 2023.
The club may feel it’s time to let these young players step up and start a new leaf. “At the beginning of the last decade, we had a wave of young men who were going to make real contributions,” Dodgers CEO Stan Kasten told Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times last month. “We now think we are on the verge of the next wave of young men. We need to make room to let that happen.” This certainly shows the club’s willingness to release its expensive free agents and replace them with younger and cheaper alternatives.
No matter how high their praise among evaluators, there is no guarantee that a candidate will emerge and succeed at the major league level. But teams cannot build successful rosters through free agency alone and must at least generate some talent from their own pipelines. There’s definitely some risk in trying to achieve this, but the Dodgers aren’t in too bad shape on paper right now. Despite many departures and modest activity so far, the club’s overall forecast WAR is currently sixth in all baseball, according to FanGraphs.
The club will definitely want to make improvements there but it remains to be seen how aggressive they will be. Some have suggested that the team wants to stay covered by the luxury tax in 2023 to spend the next winter more aggressively. Shohei Ohtani It is likely to be the best free agent available. As a reminder, the CBRT imposes increased penalties for clubs that pay in consecutive seasons. The Dodgers paid the tax in 2021 and 2022, and if they pay again in 2023, they will be a third time payer. -time” paying and significantly lower penalties. With so many contracts coming off the record and so many potential customers ready to exit, now seems like a good time to flip the reset switch. But if that’s really the plan, Bauer’s decision will be even more important. If the suspension is approved, the club will have over $40 million to work on before it comes close to the line, but if the decision is overturned that figure approaches $10 million.
Either way, there’s still plenty of talent on the roster right now. As noted, FanGraphs ranks them as the sixth best club in the majors at the moment. Rotation is fine with Kershaw, Julio Urias, tony gonsoline and Dustin May It takes four points. There are some injury question marks with this group but they have a lot of advantages. They also have the aforementioned prospects as backend and depth options with Pepiot, Miller and Stone in the mix. There are some exciting young shooters in the arena. Evan Phillips, Alex Vesia and Brusdar Graterol.
There is also a lot of talent on the position player side, and many of them can move to other positions as needed. Will Smith one of the best catchers in the game and will be behind the plate. The club is reported to be comfortable Gavin Lux he moves from the second stage to the stopper position. super helpful guy Chris Taylor could take over the keystone for him. in the corners, Freddie Freeman Vargas will be talked about for the first stage while he can audition for a long time in the hot corner. Max Muncy he can spend some time in the first, second and third and also act as a regularly appointed batsman. out in the field, Mookie Bets there will be a position that has been talked about for a while Trayce Thompson it must be another Busch or James Outman, a prospect slightly behind Busch in the standings, but posting a large number of top minors and already making his MLB debut. While Taylor has a significant amount of time away, Muncy also has the potential to take second base.
If the club has $40 million to work with, there are many ways to spread it to develop the team while leaving room for its young players to take a step forward. Adding a startup puts its leads outside of the top five, but opportunities certainly pop up throughout the year. Kershaw has not scored 130 hits in a season since 2019 due to various ailments. May has just returned from Tommy John surgery in late 2022 and has only made six starts a year. Gonsolin jumped from the rocking man to the starter, but struggled with a forearm strain while yawning. Even with the addition of a free player, opportunities will undoubtedly arise for Pepiot, Miller and Stone.
Best remaining free player start Carlos RodonEstimated by MLBTR for a salary of $28 million, but is reportedly looking for a seven-year deal and could theoretically get a lower annual salary to maximize his guarantee. Dodgers generally prefer higher salaries and shorter durations, but they could change their tune if they focus on the CBT hits in 2023. Even adding around $25 million for someone like Rodón would leave room for other upgrades to the club, so they’ve never really been able to fit any beginning shooter into their plan in this scenario. Some of the other options available are: Noah Sundergaard, Nathan Eovaldi and old friend Ross Stripling.
With the club reportedly fleeing, adding an outfielder seems like a possibility. Kevin Kiermaier Before agreeing to join the Blue Jays. If the club looks at other options, it probably won’t have to break the bank. The best options are already off the board Aaron Judge and Brandon Nimmo each agrees to rejoin their New York club. This leaves Andrew Benintendi Probably the best man left in this department. MLBTR estimated he’d be on a four-year contract worth $54 million, or $13.5 million per season.
The club could also pursue a fielder and force Taylor to spend more time on the turf, with perhaps Lux remaining in second place. There is an option at the top Carlos Correa, apparently not in the club’s plans. This leaves another marquee option dansby swanwith a big drop towards less exciting options like Elvis Andrus, jean segura, Brandon Drury or Justin Turner. It’s estimated that Swanson will earn a salary of $22 million over seven years, with a total salary of $154 million, while other names will certainly fall under that.
There are many attractive options in any of these routes, but the club needs to be willing to pass the luxury tax again to do it all. If they truly plan to stay under, they will have to make tough choices about which of these areas are worth their investment and which are worth leaving open to young people. Being under the tax doesn’t completely deter the club, as it’s almost certain that they’ll make it into the next season, fixed by many for a post-season spot. But FanGraphs currently ranks them as the fourth-best team in the National League after the Braves and the overly aggressive Mets and Padres. A modest off-season could still leave the Dodgers in good shape, but perhaps knock them off their pedestal as permanent favourites.