Aaron Judge heading to Chavez Ravine? Five big questions for the Dodgers offseason

New York Yankees star Aaron Judge rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Cleveland Guardians.
New York Yankees star Aaron Judge rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Cleveland Guardians in Game 5 of the ALDS on Oct. 18. Will the Dodgers pursue Judge in free agency?
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

The Dodgers thought they’d still be playing right now.

Instead, as the World Series winds down and the start of the offseason beckons, the winningest team in baseball this season is already looking ahead to next year, mapping out a winter in which it will try to reload its roster and reconcile its latest postseason disappointment.

At this juncture, there are several paths in front of the Dodgers.

They could bring back the bulk of a team that won a franchise-record 111 games as well as the NL West division, or opt for larger-scale changes in the wake of their NLDS defeat to the San Diego Padres.


They could be one of the sport’s biggest spenders in free agency, or remain relatively quiet and trust their internal depth to improve the roster in 2023.

As always, they’ll have ample options from which to choose, and few financial restrictions holding them back.

With free agency set to begin next week, here is a look at the five biggest questions facing the team going into the offseason:


Will Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger return?

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner hits against the Colorado Rockies on Oct. 5.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

These will be two of the first big decisions for the Dodgers.

With Turner, the team will have to determine within five days of the end of the World Series whether it will pick up his $16-million club option for 2023, or pay him a $2-million buyout that would allow him to become a free agent. The two sides can also try to negotiate a new deal to keep Turner — who has said he has yet to hear from the Dodgers about his contract status — in Los Angeles for a 10th season.

With Bellinger, the team will have until Nov. 18 to choose whether to tender him a contract. If the Dodgers do, he’ll probably get more than $18 million in his final year of arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors’ projections. If they don’t, he too would become a free agent. The Dodgers could explore trading Bellinger before the deadline too.

Both are among the more difficult Dodgers players to project for next season.

Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts has won the most Gold Glove Awards at the position of any active current player.

Nov. 1, 2022


Turner started this past season slowly, rebounded as one of the majors’ best hitters in the second half of the campaign, but then struggled in the NLDS. He will also be entering his age-38 season.

Bellinger is a former MVP but has posted below-league-average numbers two years running, and was benched for the last two games of the NLDS after struggling to start the series.

If the Dodgers are intent on remaking their roster, they could part with both and free up more than $30 million of payroll for next season.

On the other hand, Turner remains a key figure in the clubhouse, and the team has maintained belief that Bellinger can rebound and look more like the All-Star caliber threat he was earlier in his career.

Which direction the team goes with each player could be an early signal of their offseason plans — a hint of whether they prefer to keep the roster relatively intact, or attempt a larger shake-up in the wake of their early postseason defeat.


Will they be able (or are they willing) to re-sign Trea Turner?

Dodgers' Trea Turner, right, smiles while taking batting practice before Game 1 of the NLDS.
Dodgers’ Trea Turner, right, smiles while taking batting practice before Game 1 of the NLDS against the San Diego Padres on Oct. 7.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)


The Dodgers have faced a situation like Trea Turner’s before.

Last year, the team let homegrown All-Star shortstop Corey Seager reach free agency, then did not match the 10-year, $325-million deal he got from the Texas Rangers.

This winter, with the out-of-contract Turner in line for a similarly massive payday, the Dodgers will have to again decide how determined they are to keep another All-Star shortstop from departing in free agency.

The team did have discussions with Turner’s representatives about a potential contract extension before the season but no formal offer materialized. Turner said he would be open to staying in Los Angeles long-term — something people inside the organization believe to be true, even with the Florida native’s East Coast roots — but also didn’t want to continue negotiations during the season.

It now leaves his chances of a Dodgers reunion in a precarious position.


Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner has been named winner of the 2022 Roberto Clemente Award. He has a $16-million club option for next year.

Oct. 31, 2022

Turner is as dynamic of a threat as almost anyone on the market. He is a career .302 hitter. He remains a premier stolen base threat. And since 2019, only fellow free agent Aaron Judge has more wins above replacement among position players, according to Fangraphs.

Turner is also going to be entering his age-30 season, two years older than Seager was last offseason. And this past year, he battled some inconsistency at the plate and in the field, though still was elected an All-Star starter and played a team-high 160 games.

Without a doubt, Turner will be one of the biggest names on the market, and at one of baseball’s most important (and expensive) positions. He should have no shortage of suitors, and no dearth of lucrative options from which to choose.

Financially, the Dodgers should have the ability to match any offer that comes Turner’s way. But — even without an obvious shortstop successor waiting in the wings — it seems just as possible the bidding for his services surpasses what they’re willing to spend, and that for a second straight winter they watch a top-level shortstop land somewhere else.


Will any other superstars emerge as potential targets?

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom delivers against the San Diego Padres.
New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom delivers against the San Diego Padres in Game 2 of the National League wild-card playoffs last month.
(Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)


Turner won’t be the only superstar name the Dodgers at least explore signing this winter.

In a free-agent class that probably will also include Judge, Jacob deGrom, Carlos Correa and several other high-profile options, the Dodgers will have the ability to make another major splash.

They’ve done it before. Two winters ago, they didn’t seem like the frontrunner to sign Trevor Bauer. Last spring, they appeared unlikely to pry Freddie Freeman away from the Atlanta Braves. In the end, they got both players (albeit, one signing has worked out far differently than the other).

This offseason, the Dodgers are expected to at least kick the tires on other potential top-tier targets again.

Judge, coming off his AL-record 62-home-run campaign, would probably be the most difficult and high-priced pursuit, but he could help bolster an outfield that struggled to find consistent performance outside of Mookie Betts and Trayce Thompson.


Dodgers broadcaster Joe Davis is calling his first World Series, and it’s almost certain his every word will be subject to criticism — just ask Joe Buck.

Oct. 25, 2022

DeGrom, the two-time Cy Young Award winner who is expected to opt out of his current contract, could add firepower to a starting rotation likely to be without Walker Buehler (coming off Tommy John surgery) for 2023 — making it one of the few true areas of need for the Dodgers this winter.

Correa (who is also expected to opt out) might be the best available alternative if Trea Turner departs, though he would come with significant baggage after being part of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing 2017 team that defeated the Dodgers in the World Series.

Other stars will be on the market this winter, as well. Dansby Swanson and Xander Bogaerts (if he, too, opts out as expected) round out a deep collection of free-agent shortstops. Carlos Rodón and Justin Verlander (two more opt-out candidates) are Cy Young-caliber arms who could be up for grabs.


Will Clayton Kershaw return again?

Los Angeles, CA - October 12: Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw delivers against the San Diego Padres in Game 2 of the NLDS on Oct. 12.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Last year, the Dodgers gave Clayton Kershaw time to think about his future.


They didn’t extend him a qualifying offer, freeing the then-injured left-hander from making a decision early in the offseason. They then let him take the 99-day lockout to further contemplate his next move, which eventually resulted in him re-signing with the club on a one-year deal at the start of spring training.

A free agent again this winter, Kershaw and the team find themselves in a familiar position: with Kershaw trying to decide whether (or where) to play his 16th major league season, and the Dodgers trying to decide how much time to give him.

Kershaw can be extended a qualifying offer, in which he would either accept a one-year, $19.65-million deal, or allow the Dodgers to recoup draft compensation if he were to leave — with the Rangers looming as the Dallas native’s most likely alternative landing spot.

The Dodgers haven’t yet indicated what they might do.

Either way, the team would love to have Kershaw back in 2023, and the left-hander has said he is leaning toward a return to the mound next season. Beyond that, however, his future with the team still isn’t a guarantee.


Will other free agents be retained?

Dodgers pitcher Tyler Anderson delivers during Game 4 of the NLDS against the San Diego Padres on Oct. 15.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

In addition to Kershaw and Trea Turner, the Dodgers have several other pending free agents this winter.

Starting pitchers Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney are both out of contract. Anderson, an All-Star selection this year, can also be extended a qualifying offer, though he probably will fetch multiyear offers from other clubs. Heaney looked decent at times, but battled injuries and problems giving up home runs.

Tommy Kahnle and Chris Martin appear like the most logical re-signing candidates in the bullpen, and Craig Kimbrel is expected to go elsewhere after a disappointing campaign as the team’s closer.

Joey Gallo will also be a free agent, though he slipped into an extended slump following a strong start with the Dodgers after they acquired him at the trade deadline.


Hanser Alberto ($2 million), Jimmy Nelson ($1.1 million) and Danny Duffy ($7 million) also all have club options.