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Dodgers Dugout: What will the team look like in 2021?

The Dodgers pose with the World Series trophy after winning Game 6.
(Getty Images)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and the glow is still there.

Now that the 2020 season is over, and the Dodgers have won the World Series, readers have been asking me questions about next season. Since all you have gotten for the last month is near-daily newsletter from me, reading my words over and over again, I thought I’d give you a break from my incessant random thoughts.

So for this part of this newsletter, I am turning to the Times Dodgers beat writer, Jorge Castillo, to answer your questions. Jorge is a good guy and one of the best in the business, so take it away, Jorge.

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Q. Do you think the fallout of all the disappointment so many fans have about Justin Turner coming onto the field after Game 6 will impact the Dodgers’ decision to re-sign him?

Jorge: I’m not sure yet. This free-agent market promises to be unlike any we’ve ever seen. The commissioner and owners have made it a point to emphasize that teams lost millions and millions of dollars in 2020. All signs indicate it will be a depressed market. I always thought the chances of Turner going elsewhere were slim. He’s a clubhouse leader, a fan favorite, and still a very good player. I would think the market forecasts tilt in favor of him staying in Los Angeles, but what happened after Game 6 is a variable I haven’t yet been able to appraise. This offseason promises to be fascinating.

Q. What would you say are the odds the Dodgers bring back Turner, Kiké Hernández and Joc Pederson?

Jorge: I’d say the odds of any of the seven free agents not named Justin Turner re-signing with the Dodgers are slim to none. That includes Hernández and Pederson. The Dodgers already tried trading Pederson last offseason and would’ve done it if Angels owner Arte Moreno hadn’t nixed a deal at the last second. Hernández was another significant contributor who seemingly saved his best for October in recent years, but the Dodgers have a utilityman replacement in Zach McKinstry ready to go at a fraction of the expected cost. I’d be shocked if either player returned.

Q. Will David Price get a World Series ring? Ross Stripling?

Jorge: I know Stripling gets a ring — he told me he would when I interviewed him during the playoffs — but Price’s situation is hazier. I haven’t been able to confirm his ring status.

Q. What do you think made this team different from previous years, when the Dodgers fell short of winning it all?

Jorge: This team was different in a few ways. The most obvious was that they had Mookie Betts. He’s a gamechanger in almost every way imaginable. The Dodgers acquired him specifically with October in mind and he came through. I also think adjusting how they used Clayton Kershaw was important. They didn’t ask Kershaw to test his limits at every turn. It was actually the opposite, the hook came quick and he wasn’t used as a reliever at all. Then there’s the experience factor, particularly with guys in the lineup. They seemed more willing to practice patience and make contact rather than swinging from their heels at every turn. Oh, and it was nice to have Corey Seager healthy and raking.

Q. It has been written that Dave Roberts is not the sole decision maker as far as the starting lineups and starting pitcher for the team. How much autonomy does he have over which relievers to use in each game?

Jorge: I think the bullpen decisions are ultimately his to make, but there’s a significant amount of information from the front office presented to him before and during games. He chooses when and how to implement it, but the decisions are on him.

Q. What was the strangest part of covering the team during this pandemic?

Jorge: Almost every part of covering baseball this year was strange, but the lack of in-person access was the biggest difference. We relied heavily on Zoom conference calls. They were often awkward and always impersonal. We couldn’t just approach a player or coach with a question or two for a little color or confirmation. Everything had to be done in the limited amount of time when you were picked to ask your questions and we usually had no say on who was made available. The circumstances challenged you to think of different ways to cover the team. It wasn’t ideal, but there’s a good chance things won’t ever return to how they were before the pandemic so we’re going to have to get used to it. Not having fans around for the entire season until the NLCS was also obviously weird. I was shocked at how different the games with fans at Globe Life Field felt. It was only around 11,000 people per game, but the difference was striking.

Thanks to Jorge for taking some time to answer these questions. The plan is to make his voice an occasional presence in this newsletter starting next season.

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The 2020 roster

A look at the contract status of key Dodgers heading into the 2021 season:

Signed

Mookie Betts

Kenley Jansen

Joe Kelly

Clayton Kershaw

Max Muncy

AJ Pollock

David Price

Chris Taylor

Arbitration eligible

Scott Alexander

Austin Barnes

Cody Bellinger

Corey Seager

Julio Urías

Under team control*

Matt Beaty

Walker Buehler

Caleb Ferguson

Dylan Floro

Tony Gonsolin

Victor González

Brusdar Graterol

Adam Kolarek

Gavin Lux

Dustin May

Edwin Ríos

Dennis Santana

Will Smith

(*players can’t go to arbitration or free agency; team can renew contract)

Free agents

Pedro Báez

Kiké Hernández

Jake McGee

Joc Pederson

Blake Treinen

Justin Turner

Alex Wood

Justin Turner update

Justin Turner, who tested positive for the novel coronavirus during Game 6, is now back in Los Angeles. MLB, which, in my opinion, is doing a great job deflecting any blame they deserve for the handling of all this, has launched an investigation into Turner’s actions, which included, apparently, warnings from MLB officials not to go back on the field.

Turner hasn’t commented publicly since letting everyone know via Twitter after he was removed from the game that he was feeling fine. A lot of people have tried to turn this into a political issue and wonder what my thoughts on the matter are. I don’t think it is a political issue, it’s a health issue. And I have many conflicting thoughts. Here they are:

I understand the impulse of wanting to go on the field to celebrate with your teammates something you have been trying to accomplish for many years.

I don’t understand how MLB could start a game without all the test results.

I wish Turner had come on the field with his mask on, stayed away from everyone, posed with the trophy, and gone back in the clubhouse. Heck, when they all got back to the hotel, they could have partied like they did on the field and no one would have been any wiser.

I cringed when I saw Clayton Kershaw on the field with his baby, both maskless.

I hope Turner comes out with a statement saying to the effect that he didn’t choose the wisest course of action, but that he made a human mistake and he hopes fans can forgive him for that.

In no way did all this detract from the enjoyment of the Dodgers winning the title, or my appreciation for all the things Turner did to help win that title.

Nothing that happened makes Turner evil or a bad person.

I hope he remains a Dodger.

That about covers it.

There’s a book and magazine!

The Times has put together both a book and a magazine about the Dodgers’ World Series title and all the major events leading up to it. I have seen early proofs of part of the book and it is gorgeous. I contributed a couple of items for the magazine and it’s fantastic. I’m not getting paid anything extra to say those things. You can read more about it and order a copy by clicking here.

That’s a wrap!

This concludes the sixth season of Dodgers Dugout, the first one to end with a title. I want to thank everyone who reads, everyone who writes, everyone who has made this one of the Times’ most successful newsletter. But don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere. The quest for back-to-back World Series titles begins now, and Dodgers Dugout will be around to chronicle it. If you have the time and want to drop the people in charge a line about this newsletter, telling them how much you love (or hate) it, please do so at christian.stone@latimes.com. That’s Chris Stone, the executive sports editor and my boss, so be nice.

And finally

Julio Urías’ postseason highlights. Watch them here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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