Dodgers player-by-player breakdown as tough roster decisions loom – Press Enterprise



As the Dodgers’ front office quickly swivels to offseason planning, it has one obvious problem: a dozen more 40-man roster players than a 40-man roster can hold.

Not only will the Dodgers need to make fast decisions about their surplus parts, they will need to make room for any additional 40-man roster promotions, and players they intend to acquire this offseason.

Here’s a closer look at the decisions the Dodgers must (and must not) make about each player in the days and weeks to come:

SIGNED PLAYERS

Mookie Betts: Signed through 2032. Nothing to see here, other than how high he finishes in the National League MVP voting.

Freddie Freeman: Signed through 2027. See above.

Chris Taylor: The only other Dodger with a guaranteed contract beyond 2024, Taylor’s utility job is safe.

Miguel Rojas: After the Dodgers extended his contract through 2024 upon acquiring him from the Marlins, Rojas will get another chance to fill the backup infielder job projected for him before Gavin Lux tore two knee ligaments in February.

Austin Barnes: Poised to back up Will Smith in 2024 after a subpar season at the plate in 2023.

Tony Gonsolin: Will make $3.4 million next season while he rehabs from Tommy John surgery.

TEAM OPTION

Max Muncy: His 175 home runs since 2017 rank 21st among active players. Throw in his plate discipline, credible baserunning and defensive versatility, and Muncy’s $10 million option is a bargain.

Lance Lynn: The Dodgers’ greatest offseason need is starting pitching. Few healthy and reliable options exist in free agency beyond a handful of established names (Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, Eduardo Rodriguez, Sonny Gray, Jordan Montgomery). Lynn, who turns 37 next year, would slot into the second tier if his $18 million option is declined. The right-hander went 7-2 with a 4.36 ERA in 11 regular-season starts as a Dodger. His home-run rate – especially in Game 3 of the NLDS – left much to be desired. The choice between exercising Lynn’s option or his $1 million buyout could depend on the status of Clayton Kershaw, the front office’s desire for a top-tier starter, and how they price the market for a steady-if-unspectacular veteran.

Joe Kelly: As they did with Lynn, the White Sox threw in a 2024 club option on Kelly ($9.5 million) that the Dodgers must now reckon with. Kelly’s stuff is still electric, but he’s made fewer appearances in every non-pandemic year since 2018 because of injuries. If the Dodgers’ offseason game plan does not include stockpiling rubber-armed starters, Kelly remains a good fit.

Daniel Hudson: A pitcher who’s made only 28 appearances the past two years, and ended each season grappling with a knee injury, rarely gets a $6.5 million guaranteed contract (the value of Hudson’s option). If Hudson wants to keep pitching at age 36, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Dodgers try to bring back the right-hander for less money.

Alex Reyes: Did not pitch in 2023 because of injuries. His option will be bought out.

Blake Treinen: Is unlikely to have his option exercised after missing most of the year recovering from a shoulder injury, then struggling to re-establish himself in the minors.

ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE

Walker Buehler: 2024 will be a pivotal year for Buehler, who is eligible for free agency after the season. He figures to be healthy, motivated, and paid about $8 million, according to MLB Trade Rumors’ estimate.

Will Smith: His bat faded down the stretch before reappearing in the NLDS, but his steady work behind the plate was a frequent reminder of Smith’s status as one of the best catchers in MLB.

Dustin May: After re-injuring his elbow, May won’t pitch much in 2024, but he’ll get a slight raise from his first-year arbitration salary.

Evan Phillips: Established himself as one of the game’s top closers (24 saves), a role he’s likely to reprise in 2024.

Brusdar Graterol: Ended the regular season with 25 consecutive scoreless innings, then took a “hidden perfect game” into the postseason. Will enter next season as the Dodgers’ top set-up man.

Caleb Ferguson:  A 3.43 ERA across 68 appearances established Ferguson as one of the most durable relievers in the bullpen.

Alex Vesia: Struggled to adapt to the pitch clock early in the season, finishing with a 4.35 ERA in 56 appearances.

Yency Almonte: A down year (5.06 ERA) ended early because of a knee injury. That raises the possibility that Almonte will be non-tendered, but the prediction here is he gets another chance.

Gavin Lux: It will be interesting to see how Lux’s first-year arbitration salary is affected by the major knee injury that wiped out his entire 2023 season.

Victor Gonzalez: Two lefties (Ferguson and Vesia) were usually enough for Dave Roberts in 2023, and Gonzalez didn’t have the punchout stuff to force his way into more than 34 games. In his first year of arbitration eligibility, a non-tender would be a surprise.

Ryan Yarbrough: Went 4-2 with a 4.89 ERA after the Dodgers acquired him from Kansas City, then was left off their NLDS roster. Next season, Yarbrough could be a valuable piece in a rotation that figures to be short on left-handers or a bullpen lacking multi-inning relievers.

Wander Suero: Had his contract selected from Triple-A in September and got into five games, posting a 7.88 ERA. Likely to be non-tendered.

TEAM CONTROL

James Outman: Will collect Rookie of the Year votes after establishing himself as the team’s everyday center fielder.

Michael Grove: Fared better in six games as a reliever (4.24 ERA, .219 opponents’ batting average) than 12 games as a starter (6.75 ERA, .319 batting average).

Bobby Miller: His start in Game 2 of the NLDS notwithstanding, Miller was the most dependable rookie starting pitcher (11-4, 3.76 ERA) of the five the Dodgers relied on in 2023.

Ryan Pepiot: Only five pitchers in either league had a lower ERA (min. 40 IP) from the day Pepiot debuted (Aug. 19) until the end of the regular season.

Emmet Sheehan: The 23-year-old was inconsistent after making the leap from Double-A, but held opponents to a .210 average while striking out more than a batter per inning.

Miguel Vargas: Never hit enough (.195/.305/.367) to justify his playing time, earning a ticket to Triple-A at midseason, then was outplayed by Michael Busch with a promotion at stake.

Gavin Stone: Although he showed flashes of potential, inconsistency and ineffectiveness limited Stone to 31 innings at the major-league level.

Michael Busch: The Pacific Coast League MVP did little (.167/.247/.292) in 27 major-league games. If the Dodgers opt to sign (or re-sign) a veteran DH, Busch is an ideal trade candidate. If they don’t, he’s an adequate fall-back option.

Kyle Hurt: The 25-year-old right-hander appeared in only one game out of the bullpen late in the season, but could be competing for a big-league rotation spot in spring training next season.

Jonny DeLuca: A 24-game cameo showcased DeLuca’s ability to hit, run and field, establishing him as a depth outfielder for 2024.

Bryan Hudson: The 6-foot-8 lefty made six appearances and logged a 7.27 ERA.

FREE AGENTS

Clayton Kershaw: His offseason is effectively an exploration of a two-part question: Will his balky left shoulder allow him to pitch to the level he desires in 2024 and, if so, where does he want to pitch? The Dodgers and Texas Rangers were Kershaw’s only considerations last winter. Before anyone can debate whether that’s the case again, Kershaw must resolve the question about his health.

Julio Urías: Will not be re-signed after ending the season on administrative leave while MLB investigates a domestic violence incident.

Jason Heyward: Considering how his season ended (.813 OPS in 124 games), it’s hard to believe it began with a minor-league contract. Heyward will command a major-league contract somewhere this offseason. Considering how the Dodgers successfully rebuilt his swing and maximized his talent in a platoon arrangement, they can’t be ruled out.

J.D. Martinez: His one-year, $10 million contract looks like a bargain in hindsight. His 33-homer, 103-RBI season was a key ingredient of the Dodgers’ 100-win campaign. Shohei Ohtani represents the only way the Dodgers upgrade their DH position via free agency. Busch offers an intriguing in-house alternative. There’s a chance the Dodgers prefer re-signing Martinez to either of those alternatives, but it seems relatively small.

David Peralta: The veteran left fielder gave the Dodgers perhaps all they could ask from him (.259, seven homers, 55 RBIs) on a one-year, $6.5 million contract. Peralta turns 37 next season, a tough age to be a part-time corner outfielder in free agency. The Dodgers might consider him redundant if they re-sign Heyward. The emergence of DeLuca, and possibly corner outfield prospect Andy Pages, could have the same effect. In any case, Peralta seems unlikely to be back.

Shelby Miller: Was quietly excellent (36 games, 1.71 ERA, .905 WHIP) in a season interrupted by injury. The Dodgers would love him to repeat that effort in 2024, but he’ll have plenty of suitors eager to give him a raise on his $1.5 million base salary.

Kiké Hernandez: Gave the Dodgers an average bat and versatile defense – exactly what was expected – after arriving in a midseason trade with Boston. He fits on any roster, even more on a team locked into one DH who doesn’t play the field. Bringing back Martinez, or signing Shohei Ohtani, only makes a reunion with Hernandez more possible.



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