Dodgers: LA’s Slow Offseason Earns Club a Mid Grade Among 30 Teams
The Athletic gives the Dodgers a C- for their slow offseason, but we won’t really know how successful it’s been until we see how 2023 goes.
It’s been a slow offseason for the Dodgers, as you might have noticed. While other teams have been spending like drunken sailors in free agency, LA has sat back and been mostly inactive. If you don’t count re-signing Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles has signed just three free agents to big-league deals: Shelby Miller, Noah Syndergaard, and JD Martinez.
Meanwhile, the following players who finished the 2022 season in the Dodgers organization are no longer with the team: Trea Turner, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Hanser Alberto, Joey Gallo, Edwin Rios, Kevin Pillar, Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney, Tommy Kahnle, Craig Kimbrel, David Price, and Chris Martin.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the size disparity in those two lists. Thirteen departures and just three additions? But if you look at the specifics, the lists get a little closer. The 13 departures include guys who hardly played in 2022 (Rios, Pillar), guys who played but had contributions that were neutral at best (Alberto, Gallo, Price), and guys who played a lot and the team was probably worse for it (Kimbrel, Bellinger). Realistically, the list of meaningful losses is Turner, Turner, Anderson, Heaney, Kahnle, and Martin.
And then there’s the fact that free agency isn’t the only way to build a team, and it’s often not even the best way. The replacements in the lineup for Turner and Turner are Martinez and Miguel Vargas. The replacements in the rotation for Anderson and Heaney are Syndergaard and Dustin May. Miller and Daniel Hudson replace Kahnle and Martin in the bullpen.
So yeah, it’s not great, but it’s not all doom-and-gloom, either. According to Dodgers beat writer Fabian Ardaya at The Athletic, it’s worth a C- grade.
This is more about what the Dodgers are losing than anything they’ve added. As Ben Clemens noted in FanGraphs earlier this month, no team lost more net year-over-year WAR from their roster than the Dodgers had at that point. They lost a $300 million shortstop for the second consecutive winter. They saw several key members of their 111-win roster in 2022 get guarantees of eight figures or more elsewhere. Part of this was in the hope they could duck underneath the luxury tax threshold and reset some of their penalties — but now, they’re over that threshold. This front office has earned some benefit of the doubt, but they need some of their young prospects to step up to make this plan look like a win.
Any time you make the choice to give a prospect a starting job, you need that prospect to step up to make the plan look like a win. And while there is a youth movement of sorts going on in Los Angeles, Vargas is the only prospect stepping into a starting role that provided any value last year. (Can you imagine less pressure for a prospect like James Outman than being told, “Just be better than Cody Bellinger has been the last two years”?)
Ardaya says the Dodgers are over the luxury tax, but that’s not set in stone yet, and I’m not as negative on the possibility of them still pulling it off as he is. If the Dodgers get under the luxury tax and win 97 games in 2023, this offseason will still have been boring, but it would be hard to say it was unsuccessful. If they go over the tax and drop to 90 wins? Sure, it’s a C- offseason. But that hasn’t happened yet.