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Dodgers head into offseason with questions about Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger

Despite winning a league-leading 111 games, the Dodgers will find themselves watching the World Series rather than playing in it, having lost yesterday’s game to the Padres, and bowing out of the NLDS. With the 2022 season now behind them, the Dodgers’ front office will be tasked with configuring the team’s 2023 roster.

Nine-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw
returned to the Dodgers this past offseason on a one-year, $17MM contract with incentives, and, as MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk wrote in September, the southpaw is leaning towards playing in the 2023 season.

Following yesterday’s game, Kershaw announced a similar intent, telling reporters that “as of right now, I’d say I’ll play again,” per Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic. However, the lefty added that “we’ll see what happens. Going home and being around and being a full-time dad changes your perspective on things,” per Ardaya.

Now a veteran of 15 Major League seasons, Kershaw has been a Dodger his entire career. However, the lefty was heavily courted by his hometown Rangers during the 2021 off-season, a team that will once again look to add pitching in the off-season. Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times reported that the Rangers were “willing to give Kershaw more years, more money” in addition to the chance to “play home games 20 minutes from his house in Dallas.”

The Dodgers have more control over what happens with Cody Bellinger. With one year of arbitration eligibility remaining, the Dodgers will be forced to make a difficult decision regarding the 2019 NL MVP.

  Philadelphia Phillies vs. Houston Astros

Bellinger and the Dodgers avoided arbitration this past offseason, agreeing to a one-year, $17M contract before the lockout. However, the lefty has yet to perform at a similar level to his 2019 magical season. This past season Bellinger slashed .210/.265/.389 with 19 homers in 504 at-bats, improving upon his 2021 season, in which he posted a .165/.240/.302 line, but nowhere close to his .305/.406/.629 2019 season.

When asked about Bellinger, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts replied that “it’s difficult” and that he has given Bellinger “a lot of leash because he’s earned it,” per Ardaya. Importantly, as predicted by Matt Swartz’s model, Bellinger is expected to earn $18.1M in arbitration this winter. It will be hard for any team, regardless of payroll size, to justify paying that sum to a player who has hit a collective .203/.272/.376 over the past three seasons.

If the Dodgers opt to cut Bellinger, there will likely be plenty of suitors for the 27-year-old, who slashed .278/.369/.559 throughout his first three Major League seasons.

14-year veteran Justin Turner finds himself in a similar situation to Bellinger, with the Dodgers holding a $16M option, with a $2M buyout, on the third baseman. Turner had a slow start to his season, slashing .256/.331/.403 over the first half before finding his grove and hitting .319/.386/.503 over the second half. However, the veteran, who will be 38-years-old next season, ended the season flat, going 4 for 24 over his last seven games and 2 for 13 against the Padres.

  Astros adjusting rotation ahead of series finale

With the Dodgers opening the 2022 season with an all-time-high $310.6M payroll and paying nearly $47M in luxury tax, the front office may be forced to shed Turner’s contract in an attempt to resign other free agents.

Switching to Dodgers’ free agents, a pair of All-Stars in Trea Turner and Tyler Anderson join the previously mentioned Clayton Kershaw.

Trea Turner is coming off his second All-Star appearance in as many years, slashing .298/.343/.466. It is a notch down from his 2021 season, where the righty posted a collective .328/.375/.536 between the Dodgers and Nationals but it should not affect his stock as a premier shortstop amongst a robust shortstop class, including Dansby Swanson and, potentially, Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts, pending opt-outs.

Turner recently suffered a Grade 2 sprain in his right ring finger, but had negative x-rays and felt healthy enough to play in the critical Game 4 of the NLDS. He will likely be healthy for Spring Training.

Lefty Tyler Anderson broke out during the 2022 season after spending his prior six seasons with four different Major League Teams. The southpaw pitched to a sparkling 2.57 ERA in 178 2/3 innings while excelling at limiting hard hits (98th percentile in Average Exit Velocity and 98th percentile in HardHit%) and limiting walks (4.8%).

With Walker Buehler recently undergoing his second Tommy John surgery and Dustin May recently returning from his Tommy John surgery, in addition to Kershaw potentially leaving, the Dodgers will be on the hunt for quality starters this offseason.

  Playoff spots assured, Phillies-Astros wind up


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