Dodgers: Here’s why Walker Buehler and LAD put long-term contract on back burner

Thomas Carannante
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 23: Walker Buehler #21 of the Los Angeles Dodgers walks back to the dugout after retiring the side against the Tampa Bay Rays during the sixth inning in Game Three of the 2020 MLB World Series at Globe Life Field on October 23, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 23: Walker Buehler #21 of the Los Angeles Dodgers walks back to the dugout after retiring the side against the Tampa Bay Rays during the sixth inning in Game Three of the 2020 MLB World Series at Globe Life Field on October 23, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /
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Though the Los Angeles Dodgers have made some awesome moves this offseason to put themselves in a tremendous position to repeat as World Series champions, fans might be scratching their heads over the organization’s treatment of Justin Turner and Walker Buehler.

Everyone knows what’s going on with Turner. He’s still unsigned, and it’s clear that the Dodgers do not care about money because, amid his stalemate with the front office, Trevor Bauer was inked to a record-setting deal that pays him $40 million and $45 million in each of the next two seasons.

But perhaps even more disappointing was the situation with Buehler, who earned Super Two status this offseason, thus making his eligible for four arbitration years instead of three. He filed for a salary over $4 million for 2021 and the Dodgers lowballed him with an offer of $3.3 million. So they were slated to head to arbitration in front of a panel to decide the right-hander’s salary.

But on Wednesday night, the two sides agreed to a two-year contract.

You might be asking yourself, “Why didn’t they just agree to a long-term pact?” Buehler is clearly the Dodgers ace of the future, and Bauer and Clayton Kershaw may not be under contract in 2022 depending on what happens. Typically, with a player of Buehler’s caliber, smart teams opt to get everything out of the way and buy out the arb years — as well as some free agency years, too.

While this two-year deal ended up being very fair, there’s probably good reason –at least from Buehler’s side — as to why a long-term deal wasn’t agreed upon. Baseball is due for a new collective bargaining agreement after 2021, and it’s quite possible the arbitration system is tossed aside, which would greatly benefit the star pitcher given his incredible track record thus far.

If that does happen — though we have no idea if it will — Buehler could stand to make even more money assuming the arbitration figures are tossed out the window. Look at his track record so far. He might be on track to become the best pre-free agency pitcher in the modern era.

The 26-year-old is 24-9 with a 3.15 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 420 strikeouts in 70 games (61 starts), totaling 365.2 innings. Even better? His postseason stats. In 11 starts, Buehler is 3-1 with a 2.35 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 83 strikeouts across 61.1 innings. His stats should be even better if not for two shaky outings his rookie year back in 2018, too.

While many were probably hoping LA would lock up their best pitcher to ensure Mookie Betts has a partner in crime after 2022, it looks like fans are going to have to wait and see what happens with the CBA next offseason.

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