On Tuesday evening, the Atlanta Braves defeated the Houston Astros 7-0 in a decisive Game 6 to win the 2021 World Series. And thus, the off-season has officially begun.
This upcoming winter is going to be probably one of the most frustrating and longest in Los Angeles Dodgers memory, and they’ve had quite a few of those recently. From anguish of not getting the job done in the playoffs, to wondering what players may or may not be re-signed, this off-season has all of that with the added bonus of a possible players’ strike.
This class of free agents is the biggest one the Dodgers have had in a long time, literally and figuratively. The team has 11 total free agents, many of them some of the biggest names on the free agent market. Some of them are certain to not be re-signed, such as Steven Souza Jr and Cole Hamels. But there are five that the Dodgers should focus on, and are ranked in order of importance for getting them re-signed.
5) Corey Seager Having Seager number five here is not in any way not wanting the homegrown shortstop to return, or an homage to his number. There seem to be a number of factors at play here for Seaver’s possible return to the team. One, there is a big free agent class of shortstops this off-season. Two, the Dodgers have Trea Turner for another season, who prefers to play short. And third, while Seager has said he “absolutely” wants to return, being an East Coaster and Yankees fan growing up may sway him in other directions. I just see this one as the most difficult of the five to predict.
4) Max Scherzer I have wanted Scherzer to be a Dodger for forever, and I have finally gotten that wish. He is everything you hope for in a pitcher and more. I would love for the Dodgers to re-sign him to a two or three year deal. At age 37 however, I could see how they would be hesitant to sign him longer than that, and with Scott Boras as Scherzer’s agent no doubt still demanding top dollar and length of contract, who knows what will happen. Still, Scherzer has seemed to enjoy his time in Los Angeles, and has made mention that he would like to play with Clayton Kershaw for a few more seasons.
3) Kenley Jansen The Big Man has given everything for the team that turned him from a catcher to one of the most elite closers in the game, including heart issues at high altitude that caused him to undergo surgery to correct the problem. While he had some issues over the last few seasons, in 2021 Kenley found It again, and his cutter remains as devastating as ever. He registered his lowest ERA since 2017, and is still a viable force at the back end of the bullpen.
2) Chris Taylor Famously acquired for Zach Lee in a trade with the Seattle Mariners, CT3 has just continued to get better and better with time. 2021 saw him make his first All-Star Game. Not many players in the Majors are as versatile as he, being able to play all three outfield positions as well as third, short, and second base. Taylor may follow former teammates Joc Pederson and Kiké Hernandez into the free agent market by trying to getting a full time job at one position. But Taylor is a gem of a player, and too good and serviceable to let get away.
1) Clayton Kershaw Public Enemy Number 1, the greatest pitcher of this generation, number one draft pick by the Dodgers in 2006. If ever there was a player that deserves to spend his whole playing career, it is Clayton Edward Kershaw.
Pragmatically, while he is not the extreme dominant pitcher that he used to be, he was still at the top of all pitchers in 2021, before his injury. Also, while the Dodgers have a bunch of young arms soon joining their rotation, as this season especially has shown, you can never have too many pitchers.
The Los Angeles Dodgers organization also owes all the goodwill to their fan base as they possibly can muster, after the Trevor Bauer fiasco. Making Kershaw a Dodger for life would go a little ways in helping that.
As stated, who know how this off-season will go. Seager and Scherzer are both with Scott Boras, and his clients typically what until closer to Spring Training to sign with teams. A work stoppage could put a huge pause in signings. And no one know how the Bauer saga will end, and if the Dodgers will still be on the hook for some or all of him exorbitant contract.
All fans can do at this point is hope for the best and prepare for the worst. The team next season could look very similar to this one, or drastically different. As Tom Petty famously said, the waiting is the hardest part.