This is the fourth time where I write some truths about the Dodgers going into the next season. The report after last season was the best one to write about, for good reason. This off-season promises to be the most turbulent one we’ve seen since after the 2014 season. There are so many players that will be free agents, labor issues, and possible rule changes that could turn the off-season into quite a mess. So, here it goes.
The 2020 World Series Championship Is Even Sweeter
The sting of losing to the Braves in the 2021 National League Championship Series just doesn’t seem as strong. Winning the 2020 World Series in an incredibly turbulent year for the whole world was a true sports highlight I’ve ever experienced. Now, that won’t last into next season and we want to be able to enjoy a parade. Plus, you never know when the next championship might come.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) January 4, 2021
The Collective Bargaining Agreement Expires
Almost three years ago I wrote about a possible baseball armageddon and how the Dodgers had three years to win a World Series before it possibly goes away. Again, I am very thankful for the 2020 World Series win but now I am a bit afraid of how the negotiations for a new agreement will work. Some items that are up for negotiations:
- Young players getting underpaid
- Older players getting pushed out for cheaper young players
- Service time manipulation
Ultimately, the management teams in baseball have found many ways to manipulate the payroll and service time. Let’s hope and pray that an agreement can be hammered out. Some things to expect if/when they come to an agreement:
- Post-season changes – more teams
- The designated hitter in the National League
- More changes to the luxury tax
There Are A Lot Of Free Agents
- Danny Duffy
- Cole Hamels
- Kenley Jansen
- Joe Kelly
- Clayton Kershaw
- Corey Knebel
- Jimmy Nelson
- Albert Pujols
- Max Scherzer
- Corey Seager
- Chris Taylor
"Yeah, absolutely. I grew up here. I spent a lot of time here. I believe in what these guys do. I believe in how we go about it. Absolutely." @coreyseager_5 on if he wants to return to the #Dodgers. pic.twitter.com/4fsEjYfeat
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) October 24, 2021
If the Dodgers were to lose all of these players, they’d have huge gaps in the starting rotation, the bullpen, the top of the order, depth, and versatility. Last season, some of the free agency losses, especially the depth and versatility suffered all season.
Personally, I would like the Dodgers to keep all of them. The Dodgers payroll for 2022 projects to a little over $205M WITHOUT any of the above free agents. However, it does include $34M for “The Redacted One” but we have no idea how that all works out. If the Dodgers get out of that payroll commitment then the payroll goes down to $181M. No matter what, they will end up in some type of luxury tax penalty unless the CBA changes in the Dodgers favor.
Just to keep you informed about after 2022, the following players are eligible to be free agents:
- Trea Turner
- Austin Barnes
- Blake Treinen
- Tommy Kahnle
- AJ Pollock
Trea Turner continues to have the smoothest slide in MLB ?
— B/R Walk-Off (@BRWalkoff) September 22, 2021
Big-Time Prospects Are Coming
The Dodgers gave up a lot of prospect capital to acquire Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. Two of them, Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz, would have factored into the 2022 plans. At the moment, I don’t see any of the top 10 prospects, other than Andre Jackson, making much of an impact on the 2022 Dodgers. However, the Dodgers will have a glut of top prospects ready to impact the team in 2023 and 2024. We will cover these players on this site and at Dodgers 2080 over the next few months. Here are just a few of the names we’ll be discussing:
- Bobby Miller
- Miguel Vargas
- Ryan Pepiot
- Diego Cartaya
- Michael Busch
- Andy Pages
Bobby Miller finished up his 2021 campaign with one of his best outings, striking out a career high 8 over 3.2 IP of one run ball for Tulsa pic.twitter.com/ChQV2Nsn7h
— Josh Thomas (@jokeylocomotive) September 19, 2021
The 2021 Bench Was A Weakness
For once, the Dodgers had a depth issue. Losing players like Kiké Hernandez and Joc Pederson to free agency and Edwin Rios to injury hurt quite a bit. All three of those players were factors in helping to win the 2020 World Series. Albert Pujols was signed and was better than expected, but he will be a free agent. Matt Beaty had his moments, but I see the Dodgers trading him. For some reason, it seems Beaty is not a preferred player for management.
Pinch-hit HR for Matt Beaty! pic.twitter.com/h8bVXTw9rD
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) October 2, 2021
The lack of quality bench parts did not emerge from Triple-A as was expected and it definitely cost the Dodgers a few wins during the season. Before 2021 almost every bench piece for the Dodgers could start for at least half of the teams in MLB.
Defense (Still) Matters
According to FanGraphs, here’s how the Dodgers defensive players ranked at their position with a minimum of 300 innings played:
- C – Will Smith – 14th out of 60
- C – Austin Barnes – 23rd out of 60
- 1B – Max Muncy – 18th out of 44
- 1B – Albert Pujols – 22nd out of 44
- 2B – Trea Turner – 19th out of 40
- SS – Trea Turner – 14th out of 41
- SS – Corey Seager – 35th out of 41
- SS – Gavin Lux – 37th out of 41
- 3B – Justin Turner – 30th out of 47
- LF – AJ Pollock – 36th out of 45
- CF – Cody Bellinger – 15th out of 47
- CF – Chris Taylor – 42nd out of 47
- RF – Billy McKinney – 6th out of 46
- RF – Mookie Betts – 19th out of 46
As a team, the Dodgers were 25th out of the 30 teams on defense. Overall, the bad defense causes more free outs to be given away and the pitchers have to throw more pitches. That is at least three years of the Dodgers being mediocre to bad on defense. For a team that tries to be efficient in getting outs, this defensive performance will continue to be a problem. Something needs to change.
Cody Bellinger Will Be Better
Cody Bellinger 2017-2019 (ROY/MVP):
Cody Bellinger 2021 postseason:
147 wRC+ pic.twitter.com/RA2meEwcv3
— Kershiser (@Kershiser77) October 22, 2021
We all know the story of Cody Bellinger in 2021. He had shoulder surgery in the previous off-season and had leg issues almost the whole season. The shoulder surgery itself would be enough to cause hitting issues. My compadre at Dodgers 2080, Casey Porter, has a great breakdown on the swing adjustments Bellinger made at the end of the season.
What Do You Think?
What might the 2022 team look like? Drop your thoughts in the comments below! Some of these thoughts started very early in the season, especially the defense and the pending free agents. I tried to stay away from speculating about the future during the season. Despite winning 106 games this team never felt quite right. Corrections will be made and I expect the Dodgers to win the 2022 World Series and we can have our parade.