The Dodgers enter the 2021 season as title favorites once again, and the future has never looked brighter. And with an increasingly younger roster, they aren’t just poised to be a contender next season. This team is here to stay and their farm system is nowhere near finished churning out game-changers.
When looking at the current roster, there are three names that stand out as the main core moving forward next to Mookie Betts: Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, and Walker Buehler. All three of these players are entering the prime of their careers and figure to demand a pay raise in the near future as well.
As a fan, it’s easy to think that it would be foolish not to sign all three of these players long term. But knowing that baseball is a business, we have to accept that this can’t always be the case. So for the sake of discussing hypothetical situations that we have no control over, let’s take a look at how the Dodgers should prioritize keeping their young core for the foreseeable future in the event that they can’t keep them all.
3. Cody Bellinger
The fact that Cody Bellinger is third on this list should tell you about the star talent of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 2019 NL MVP is only 25 years old and still has plenty of room to grow, but somehow it feels as if we’ve already seen his best whereas the best is yet to come for the other two on this list.
This is no knock on what Bellinger offers the Dodgers. His defense and versatility can not be overstated, and we’ve seen his offensive potential. 2020 was supposed to be the season where Cody cemented himself as a true top-5 player in the game, but the shortened season may have played a part in his lower production.
Bellinger is under contract for three more seasons before hitting unrestricted free agency in 2024. There is no reason why the Dodgers shouldn’t look to extend Cody before then, but there are two others who should be taken care of first.
2. Walker Buehler
We know who the future ace of the pitching staff is and his name is Walker Anthony Buehler. He is already LA’s best starter, but until Clayton Kershaw decides to hang up the cleats, Buehler will remain their number two guy.
The only reason that Buehler doesn’t hold the top spot on this list is that the Dodgers have a seemingly endless supply of frontline starting pitching. Even with Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, and Julio Urías claiming their places on the major league roster, you have the likes of Josiah Gray, Mitchell White, Bobby Miller, and Clayton Beeter just waiting for their opportunity. Having said that, however, it’s hard to see any of these pitchers being as dominant as Buehler has been in his short time in the majors.
Walker is currently under contract until 2024, but this is one player that the Dodgers shouldn’t allow anywhere near the open market. The moment that the two can agree on a number, I fully expect a deal to be made that will keep Buehler in Dodger blue for years to come.
1. Corey Seager
Had this question been asked prior to the 2020 season, Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger would likely have traded places on this list. In fact, many were ready to ship him out for Francisco Lindor without a second thought.
Many had given up on Corey’s future in LA after a series of injuries sidelined him for most of the 2018 season, but the last two seasons have brought back memories of what folks around baseball knew he was capable of.
2019 was an important stepping stone for Corey to show that he could remain healthy, but 2020 was the breakout season that he had been waiting for. After posting back to back All-Star seasons in 2016 and 2017, it was important for the young shortstop to show that he could get back to that level. Corey is still only 26 and his future appears to be heading back in the right direction. With 2021 being the final year under contract with LA, the time to make an extension happen is now.
The job is easy for the Dodgers here: hand Corey a blank check and let him dictate the terms of the deal. The fact that he is a Scott Boras client complicates things a bit, but there should be motivation on both sides to get a sizeable contract signed.
Assuming that the Dodgers could only sign two of their superstars to long term extensions, my preference would go to keeping Buehler and Seager. And according to a poll run by our own Brian Robitaille, a majority of fans feel the same way.
Let's say over the course of the next few years, the Dodgers can only lock up two of the three players long term. Who would you rather them keep?
— Brian (@BriRobitaille) November 5, 2020
In all likelihood, the Dodgers will aim to keep all three of these guys going forward. They have the financial flexibility to do so as long as they don’t bring in another big contract, such as their rumored link to Nolan Arenado.
The Dodgers are one of the wealthiest franchises in all of sports, but even they have to pick and choose what or who to spend on. Lucky for them, they don’t have to go out and search for another star. The future is already on the roster and waiting for their turn to cash in.