LOS ANGELES -- When you take a quick look at the Dodgers’ roster, a few things that stand out.
Even with an offseason full of departures, the star power is clearly still there. Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urías are still with the club. Will Smith is also a budding star at his position.
The Dodgers’ roster also has quality depth, with Gavin Lux, Max Muncy, J.D. Martinez, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May being some of the guys to round out the starting lineup and rotation.
However, one of the biggest areas that stick out on this year’s roster, and one that has become increasingly difficult to ignore, is the lack of quality outfield options, at least at this point in the offseason.
Having Betts, a six-time NL Gold Glove Award winner, is a luxury no other team in the Majors has. Betts is arguably the best defensive right fielder in the league and has shown no signs of slowing down at the position. But outside of Betts, the Dodgers will need multiple things to go their way.
Losing Cody Bellinger to the Cubs isn’t a big blow to the lineup, but the outfield defense takes a significant hit with the former NL MVP now gone. While Bellinger hasn’t graded out as well as he once did defensively, he’s still an above-average defender at a premium position. Right now, Los Angeles would lean on Chris Taylor and Trayce Thompson to fill the center field role, both big defensive downgrades.
The Dodgers could ask Betts to move to center, which is something they’re talking through, but that would require them to take him away from right field, the one strength in the outfield. In left field, Los Angeles will look to Taylor and rookie James Outman.
What exactly can the Dodgers do in order to improve the outfield before the start of the 2023 season?
Given that Los Angeles is knocking on the door of the $233 million tax limit -- a figure the club wants to stay below -- there really isn’t much to be done from the outside. The Dodgers could try to swing a trade for someone (like Bryan Reynolds), but they would then have to shed salary in another area -- presumably trying to trade Taylor, though no teams would likely line up to take the three years and $45 million still owed to him.
The most realistic way of improving the outfield is hoping Outman can become the player they hope he can turn into, and quickly. Outman had the best possible start to his big league career, hitting a homer in his first at-bat. But he also struck out six times in his last two games, perhaps a sign he’s not quite ready to be an everyday player. Can that change entering this season? Absolutely. In fact, Los Angeles is optimistic that’s exactly the case.
If not Outman, the Dodgers will look to veterans Jason Heyward, Steven Duggar and/or Bradley Zimmer to make the roster and contribute. All will be at big league camp; none are guaranteed to make the roster.
There are a lot of question marks regarding the Dodgers’ outfield. They’ll need to find some answers in order to defend their National League West title this season.
The Dodgers had a decision to make by Friday regarding Trevor Bauer, and the organization ultimately decided to designate him for assignment, ending his time in Los Angeles.
Why not just release him? Well, a couple of reasons. The main one is that Los Angeles did not want him back on the roster. Secondly, the club now has seven days (from Friday) to trade him to any team willing to pay him $22.5 million this season. Working out a trade, however, appears to be unlikely, according to a source.
Bauer served a 194-game suspension, the longest for a player that has violated the league’s domestic violence policy. If no team trades for him, Bauer will become a free agent, though the Dodgers will still be responsible for the $22.5 million owed to him next season.
Longtime Dodger Justin Turner was formally introduced as a member of the Red Sox last Friday, ending an impressive nine-year run with Los Angeles.
Turner acknowledged that he wanted to continue his career with the Dodgers, but when it became clear that the team was going in another direction, he needed to make sure he took care of his future.
“I made it pretty clear that I had very strong interest in returning there and continuing on with them,” Turner said. “But as things shook out, and time went on and [I] started having conversations with other teams, including the Red Sox and seeing the different opportunities that were presented in front of me, I found it very intriguing.”
Turner was heavily recruited to the Red Sox by former Dodger Enrique Hernández. Los Angeles' all-time saves leader Kenley Jansen also joined Boston's ranks this winter.
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