Coming off their first World Series championship in over 30 years, the Dodgers enter this offseason with the hopes of improving upon their team and making another title run in 2021. While the front office will undoubtedly be looking at all trade possibilities and other free agents available, they will likely focus on their own free agents first.
LA has eight players who were on their roster at some point this season that have entered free agency. It’s safe to assume that not every one of those players will return. Trying to determine which players to bring back won’t be easy, but that’s the task facing Andrew Freidman.
Below, we prioritize the top five players the Dodgers should focus on re-signing, considering all the factors (expected salary, team need, etc.)
#5. Kiké Hernandez
For the last six years, Hernandez has been a staple on the Dodgers roster. His defensive versatility has been invaluable and made him a key role player for the team. Although his offensive production has been somewhat inconsistent, he has hit lefties fairly well throughout the years (career .820 OPS.) There’s also no denying that Hernandez plays with high energy and seems to be a great clubhouse personality.
The Dodgers would surely like Hernandez back at the right price, but you could argue that the need is not necessarily there. With Gavin Lux figuring to take over second base duties in the near future, the team could employ Chris Taylor as their “super-utility” guy. Taylor plays practically every position Hernandez does, and he hits better. The Dodgers also have players like Zach McKinstry, who’s ready for an opportunity.
There’s no question that Hernandez could be an everyday starter on many other Major League clubs. In turn, he’ll likely see some good offers this offseason, and it may be unrealistic to expect the Dodgers to match those.
#4. Joc Pederson
Like Hernandez, Pederson has been a key player for the Dodgers over the last six years. Joc has played his entire career with Los Angeles, posting a .230/.336/.470 slash line and clubbing 130 home runs. Also, like Hernandez, Pederson’s return could be determined by team needs, or lack thereof.
A.J. Pollock had a nice bounce-back year during the abbreviated 2020 season, and he could easily take over the everyday left field duties. The Dodgers also have guys like Edwin Rios and Matt Beaty for a left-handed bat off the bench.
Perhaps the biggest factor to determine if there’s a good fit for Pederson back with LA is whether or not MLB decides to keep the DH in the National League. If they do, that could mean more opportunities to utilize Joc. If not, those opportunities are limited.
There’s no doubt that Pederson is a platoon player at this point in his career. His inability to hit lefties has cemented that. However, that doesn’t mean he’s not valuable. His lifetime .849 OPS against RHP is nothing to scoff at, and plenty of teams would love to have that kind of production.
Joc’s services could be highly sought-after this offseason, especially by some American League teams. While he could certainly still have a role for the Dodgers, Pederson could be a luxury that they can’t (or at least shouldn’t) pay for.
#3. Alex Wood
Over the last two years, Wood has started only nine games and pitched a total of 48 innings. During that time, he’s posted an ERA over 6 and a WHIP of 1.521. Not exactly good numbers. So why is he third on this list? Well, again, we’re considering everything here, including team need and cost.
Wood doesn’t figure to command a huge contract this offseason, especially given his recent injury history. That means the Dodgers could retain him for fairly cheap. Also, the team need is there. If there’s one thing these Dodgers desire in their starting rotation, it’s depth. Wood could provide that. Although the rotation seems to be full at the moment, there will certainly be some spot starts needed considering young arms like Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin may not be ready for a complete 162-game season.
There were also some signs of improvement this year with Wood once he got healthy. He had the highest K/9 of his career in 2020 (10.7), albeit in a very short sample size. Wood also had a good postseason, and his fastball velocity increased. If the Dodgers can get Wood back on a cheap deal, he could be a nice long relief option out of the bullpen.
#2. Blake Treinen
The Dodgers signed Treinen to a 1-year, $10 million deal last offseason after a very poor 2019 campaign where he posted a 4.91 ERA, 1.619 WHIP, 5.14 FIP, and 5.7 BB/9. The year before, Treinen was excellent, putting up a 0.78 ERA, 0.834 WHIP, 1.82 FIP, and 11.2 K/9.
Treinen was not as good as his 2018 self this year, but he did improve a lot from his numbers last season. In 2020, he had a 3.86 ERA in 25.2 innings and had a 1.208 WHIP. He got his command somewhat under control (2.8 BB/9) and he induced a lot of ground ball (64% GB.)
Perhaps the weakest area on the Dodgers team is the bullpen. Their relief core is not bad by any means, but there’s certainly room for improvement. They won the World Series despite Kenley Jansen’s role as closer being in a state of flux, and it remains to be seen how much faith Dave Roberts will have with Jansen going forward. If he struggles early on next year, how long will his leash be? And who would be the guy to replace Jansen if needed?
Treinen has experience being a closer and could be one of the first options for that role, should the Dodgers re-sign him. The need for a late inning reliever is certainly there, and Treinen is probably one of the better free agent relief options available.
#1. Justin Turner
Since coming over to the Dodgers in 2014, Turner has reinvented himself. He went from a serviceable bench player to an All-Star caliber third baseman. He also developed into one of the veteran leaders on the club. The Dodgers would gladly welcome back Turner, and he’ll probably be the priority among their own free agents.
Turner will be 36 entering next season, and he’s battled some injuries over the last few years. Still, when healthy, he has continued to produce at a high level. Turner slashed .307/.400/.460 last year and improved his defense after a decline in 2019.
The Dodgers also have a current need at third base. If Turner were to leave, they wouldn’t have anyone that could step in right away and play at the same level (Nolan Arenado rumors aside). It would be asking a lot of Edwin Rios to play every day at third, a position where he’s still suspect defensively. Corey Seager might eventually take over at third someday, but currently, that doesn’t appear to be an option, as it would create a hole at shortstop.
Top prospect Kody Hoese is still at least a couple of years away from being Major League ready.
Turner grew up in Southern California and loves playing for the Dodgers. The Dodgers love having him, and his teammates love playing with him. All things considered, a return for “Redturn” seems like a good fit for both sides. A one or two-year deal with incentives sounds like a realistic scenario.
Which free agents do you think the Dodgers should prioritize? Let us know in the comments below!