Just like every other typical offseason, the question of how much money the Los Angeles Dodgers are willing to invest in team payroll is at the top of the conversation list for many fans.
Last year, once the smoke settled on the season, the Dodgers ended up spending $270.8 million total on payroll, which led the entire majors, according to Spotrac. The general thought among many fans was that despite the team’s early exit from the playoffs, it might have been the most talented group of players the team had in recent decades, at least from an offensive perspective.
Regardless, the general belief is that the team will lean heavily on a youth movement for the beginning of 2023. As it stands, the team is about $50 million under the $233 million tax threshold. Eric Stephen at True Blue LA has put together an informative worksheet, including the salaries of the minor league players who would fill out the roster should the season begin today.
Players like Miguel Vargas and James Outman, who both saw action last season, might be contributors early on. It seems like the team could be targeting a lefty-hitting outfielder on the free-agent market, as made evident by their strong pursuit of Kevin Kiermaier. However, should the team not bring in any help from the outside, it could open the door for Outman, who bats left-handed, to receive some significant playing time at the beginning of the season.
Lefty-hitting infielder Michael Busch, who has a fair amount of outfield experience, could see some early opportunities as well.
Starting pitching could be an entirely different story. In recent seasons, we’ve seen the Dodgers hit hard and early by the injury bug. In 2022, there was no room for lefty Tyler Anderson in the starting rotation at the beginning of the year, but the veteran went on to be one of the team’s most effective pitchers. According to Baseball Reference, 12 different pitchers started games for the Dodgers last year, which included two opener-games from Caleb Ferguson and Brusdar Graterol.
Right now, it looks like we can cement in Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May in for Opening Day slots, with someone like Ryan Pepiot contending for the fifth starting spot. As much as we love Kershaw, we really can’t depend on any concrete production from him. Any early absences could possibly allow contribution from youngsters such as Gavin Stone, Michael Grove and Bobby Miller, along with journeyman minor leaguer Andre Jackson.
And that’s not even mentioning anything about a bullpen that could have a bunch of missing key pieces aside from a healthy Evan Phillips.
For as much as any of us don’t want to hear about Trevor Bauer, his 2023 contract could factor into what the team does with its budget, primarily if management wants to stay under the tax threshold. If, for whatever reason, the MLB decides to change Bauer’s suspension, the Dodgers could conceivably be on the hook for his $32 million salary in 2023, despite the fact that he likely wouldn’t even throw a pitch.
For now, all we can do is stay patient and wait. It could end up being a tight divisional race in the West in 2023, with the Dodgers making a potential splash at the trade deadline to reinforce their roster with the bare essentials to land in the postseason.