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Even though the World Series has only just begun and the peak of the Hot Stove season is still weeks away, many fans of the Dodgers are already chattering about potential areas of improvement, most specifically alterations to the nucleus of the 40-man roster.
Yesterday, we mentioned briefly the overwhelming amount of positivity and enthusiasm expressed so soon after being eliminated in the NLCS, yet if two key impending free agents somehow slip through the cracks to opposing clubs, those same thoughts of optimism may very well fizzle quickly.
As we indeed have the entire offseason to break down and analyze any conceivable changes to the Dodgers’ roster, today we’ll briefly lay out each noticeable hole, in addition to offering a quick commentary regarding the players surrounding those problem areas.
While many pundits are already mentioning the starting rotation as the biggest area which needs to be addressed, the bullpen could easily be a department of equal or more importance, especially if the front office crew is unable to retain closer Kenley Jansen.
The ball will start rolling five days after the World Series when clubs start to extend qualifying offers as a last resort to keep their most coveted players without offering huge contracts right off the top. A week after that, the impending free agents will decide whether to accept or reject said offer, which this year stands at a hefty $17.2 million.
Despite a potentially large paycheck for a single season, there’s no doubt Jansen will decline in hopes of landing an even more lucrative deal, possibly approaching the 5-year, $65 million range. Consequently, Joe Blanton, who was the primary bridge to Jansen this season, certainly will not receive a QO, but most likely will be offered some type of deal once free agent negotiations begin in several weeks. Needless to say, without Jansen and Blanton, the relief corps will be nearly decimated compared to that of the overachieving regular group that we saw in 2016.
Third baseman Justin Turner is the other player whom the Dodgers are sure to offer a QO, and while there are several players who could fill an inherent void at the hot corner, none can match the value of Turner both offensively and defensively. With his age-32 season on the horizon, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Turner command a contract somewhere in the 4-year, $68 million range.
Drifting back to the starting rotation, many close followers of the club believe that without a true No. 2 starter, the Dodgers won’t have much of a chance bettering themselves from what they achieved in 2016. Julio Urias definitely has the makeup to fill that role down the road, but there’s no question it will take the 20-year-old a few years to come close. There are whispers already of the front office showing interest in bringing back lefty veteran Rich Hill, but on a team with championship aspirations, Hill is probably better tailored for a No. 4 hole. On his absolute very best day, Scott Kazmir doesn’t rank higher than a quality No. 3.
Subsequently, if second baseman Chase Utley happens to pack his bags and drift off to another MLB town far away, a huge hole will exist in the leadership department. Utley worked for a flat $7 million in 2016, and even in a potentially more limited role next year, may demand a similar amount or more in his next deal.
Other notable Dodgers players from this year who are set to make their marks in free agency include Josh Reddick, Brett Anderson, J.P. Howell and Jesse Chavez.
Be sure to check back frequently as we’ll break these question marks down even further over the winter, as we’ll do our best to keep you informed with any whispered rumors and our own original insight. And make sure to check back early this weekend when we plan to kickoff the blog’s second official fan giveaway.
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