Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and the Dodgers are going to look a lot different next year.
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Let’s catch up on what has happened since the last newsletter two weeks ago.
No contract for Cody Bellinger
The Dodgers had until last Friday to offer contracts to players who were eligible for arbitration. They tendered contracts to Yency Almonte, Walker Buehler, Caleb Ferguson, Tony Gonsolin, Brusdar Graterol, Dustin May, Evan Phillips, Will Smith, Trayce Thompson and Julio Urías. They did not offer contracts to Edwin Ríos, Luke Williams and Cody Bellinger. This very likely, but not definitely, brings an end to Bellinger’s Dodger career.
Although the Dodgers could bring him back for less than the $18 million he was probably going to make in arbitration, you have to figure some other team will offer Bellinger a one- or two-year deal for a high average value in the hope that club can turn him around. Plus, the team would be getting Gold Glove-level defense in center field.
It’s not often a player gets cut loose three years after winning an MVP award and five years after winning Rookie of the Year, but Bellinger hasn’t been a good hitter since 2019. Injuries were always the excuse, but it always seemed like more than that. Since the start of the 2020 season, Bellinger is hitting .203/.272/.376 with 41 homers in 295 games. In his 2019 MVP season, he hit 47 homers in 156 games.
Bellinger also had a tendency to disappear for long stretches during the postseason, hitting .211 in 69 postseason games with 87 strikeouts in 242 at-bats.
He also had some great moments with the team, and to his credit, he never took his offensive problems into center, where he remained one of the best fielding outfielders in team history. But the Dodgers made the right call here. I’m pretty sure all Dodger fans carry this secret fear that he will rediscover his old form with a new team and hit 40 homers. That doesn’t mean the Dodgers made a mistake, because there would be no guarantee he would have done that here. Sometimes players need a change of scenery,
If Bellinger’s time with the Dodgers is truly done, we wish him well and he deserves an ovation when he returns.
Who replaces Bellinger in center? Well, internal candidates are Chris Taylor, Trayce Thompson and James Outman. They could also sign a free agent, such as Kevin Kiermaier of Tampa Bay.
The other surprise was not offering Ríos a contract. He hit .244/.293/.500 with seven homers in 86 at-bats. But the Dodgers have a bunch of left-handed hitters on the 40-man roster: Michael Busch, Freddie Freeman, Gavin Lux, Max Muncy, Jorbit Vivas and Outman. Plus Ríos seems to be injury prone. If I were a team that needed a DH, I would sign him yesterday.
Justin Turner’s option not picked up
Justin Turner had a $16-million team option for next season, but the Dodgers decided not to pick it up and gave him his $2-million buyout, making him a free agent. They could bring Turner back at a lower rate too.
Turner, who turns 38 on Wednesday, got off to a terrible start in 2022. After going 0 for 5 on June 17, he was hitting .206/.276/.335 and looked like he was done. After that. he hit .340/.412/.528 and led the NL in batting after Aug. 1. He cooled off a bit at the end of the season and went two for 13 in the postseason. Will the Dodgers bring him back? Will another team offer him a big enough deal that the Dodgers will let him walk? Impossible to know.
Turner is one of the best Dodgers of all time. He is in the top 20 in a lot of Dodger career offensive categories and his presence on the team, from a fan standpoint, certainly would be missed. But it appears that the Dodgers want to give the young players a chance in 2023. Not only because many of them are ready, but also because it saves on payroll. The Dodgers have surpassed the luxury tax threshold the last two seasons. The Dodgers might want to reset their penalty by not going over this year. The threshold next season is $233 million, and the Dodgers are at $168 million.
In 2022, according to the Associated Press, “The Dodgers’ payroll was $289.96 million on Aug. 31. With higher tax rates as a repeat offender, the Dodgers are on track to pay $29.4 million.”
“First-time offenders pay 20% on the amount above the first threshold, 32% above the second, 62.5% above the third and 80% above the fourth.
“As a repeat offender, the Dodgers pay 30% above the first, 42% above the second, 75% above the third and 90% above the fourth. [The 2022] four tax thresholds are $230 million, $250 million, $270 million and $290 million.”
What about Trea Turner?
It seems unlikely that Trea Turner will be back. There are several suitors for him, all of whom will probably pay him more than the Dodgers. After all, if the Dodgers wanted to break the bank for a shortstop, they could have re-signed Corey Seager before last season. Gavin Lux could be your new shortstop next season. He played short in the minors, and though we all know it seems he takes a game or two off mentally on defense, he would battle the position to a draw. They could also sign former Houston Asterisk Carlos Correa or some other free-agent shortstop.
What about Clayton Kershaw?
He’ll be back. The Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw are on the verge of a one-year deal that will be similar to the $17 million he got last season. Money well spent.
Is Aaron Judge going to be a Dodger?
Lots of rumors online about the Dodgers going after Aaron Judge of the Yankees. Of course, there were also some of the same people online telling us Max Scherzer was definitely going to be a San Diego Padre.
Signing Judge probably would end up putting the Dodgers over the payroll tax again, so there’s that. He will get a monstrous contract for sure. There are multiple teams interested in him. The Dodgers usually figure out the most they are willing to spend for a player, and won’t go a penny over that. So we’ll have to wait and see. Wish I could offer more clarity, but Andrew Friedman plays things close to the vest, and he has yet to use the direct hotline to tell me exactly what he plans to do.
If the Dodgers sign Judge, they could put him in center. Or, they could put him in right and move Mookie Betts to second base, moving Lux to short. Or they could still sign Kiermaier and rotate Betts and Judge between right and DH.
But let’s worry about that if it happens.
Blake Treinen has surgery
Reliever Blake Treinen, out almost all last season because of a shoulder injury, had surgery on that shoulder and will be out almost all of 2023 too.
Tyler Anderson is gone
Tyler Anderson, who pitched so well for the Dodgers last season, agreed to a three-year, $39-million deal with the Angels.
Julio Urías does not win the Cy Young
Miami’s Sandy Alcantara was a unanimous winner of the Cy Young Award, with Julio Urías finishing third. This is not a debate about whether Urías or Alcantara should have won. You can make a strong case for either one. The problem with the voting was two-fold.
First, that Urías finished third, behind Alcantara and Max Fried of the Braves. But the biggest problem was that of the 30 voters, eight of them did not have Urías on their ballot, which requires you to vote for the top five. How can eight people think that Urías was not one of the five best pitchers in the NL last season? The only conclusion I can draw is that they allowed eight people who have never watched baseball to vote.
I asked you to take part in a poll about some of the above, and here are your responses, after 14,250 votes:
Should the Dodgers exercise Justin Turner’s $18-million contract option?
Would you offer Cody Bellinger a contract, guaranteeing him arbitration?
Do you offer Clayton Kershaw a contract at a price similar to this season ($17 million)?
Do you re-sign Trea Turner to a multiyear deal for $25 million-$30 million a season?
Would you rather have Aaron Judge or Trea Turner?
Trea Turner, 70.3%
Aaron Judge, 29.7%
The current roster
If the season started today, here’s a look at a projected 26-man roster:
We’ll keep track of the changes to this as the offseason progesses.
A lot of you good naturedly pointed out that I made Nov. 31 the deadline to vote in the “Dodgers Dugout Dodgers Hall of Fame” voting. And there is no Nov. 31. See, what it was was a trick to see how many of you actually read. And it worked.
OK, really, what happened was I was typing without thinking. In other words, I’m an idiot.
There is still time to vote, however. How do you vote? You email me at ho[email protected] Send me an email with your choices, in any order (up to 12 players and up to six nonplayers). You have until Dec. 1 to vote. Results will be announced soon after that. For detailed directions and bios of all candidates, click here. And remember, Roy Campanella, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson, Vin Scully and Duke Snider were voted in last year, so they aren’t on the ballot.
Players (vote for no more than 12)
Van Lingle Mungo
Pee Wee Reese
Non-players (vote for no more than six)
Stories you might have missed
Dodgers have shed millions in payroll. Will they sign a star or try to reset the luxury tax?
Cody Bellinger is a free agent. Though it’s unlikely, he could still return to Dodgers
Tyler Anderson explains why signing with Angels was a ‘no-brainer’
Why a women’s locker room at the Dodgers’ spring home is turning into a legal fight
Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen could miss 2023 after shoulder surgery
Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers closing in on one-year deal
Justin Turner hits a walk-off three-run homer against the Cubs in the 2017 NLCS. Watch and listen here.
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