The Los Angeles Dodgers will be faced with some contract conundrums after the 2021 season. We hate to look so far into the future, but this is what happens when players are approaching free agency.
Of the notable names, Corey Seager, Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen will likely be hitting the open market, with Seager being the most important.
The Dodgers’ starting shortstop won both the NLCS and World Series MVP in 2020 and has rebounded almost flawlessly since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2018.
He’s been among the best in the game ever since and expects to join fellow stars Carlos Correa, Javier Baez, Trevor Story and Francisco Lindor (if he doesn’t sign an extension) in free agency next November.
This was already a complicated situation for the Dodgers. Seager is a client of agent Scott Boras, who almost always has his players wait until free agency to negotiate a new contract. Rarely do they sign extensions, and Seager has little reason too, especially after his 2020 performance.
Now, throw in the San Diego Padres giving Fernando Tatis Jr. a $340 million contract, and the Dodgers could have quite the problem on their hands.
Los Angeles already has (at least) $172 million committed to 2022 and you have to think a Cody Bellinger extension has to be atop their list of priorities. He’s already making $16.1 million in his first year of true arbitration eligibility (he was a Super Two player), so it’d be in their best interest to buy out the rest of his controllable years and secure him for the long haul.
Another potential issue is the loss of Kershaw. If they do indeed let the left-hander go or he opts to retire, even with the presence of Walker Buehler, Trevor Bauer, David Price and others, that’s a monumental loss for the starting rotation.
The sole good news is here is that the Dodgers will have almost $45 million come off the books after 2022, with Mookie Betts being the only player guaranteed a salary (everyone else is either pre-arbitration/arbitration eligible or has a contract option).
But assuming Seager has another elite campaign on this stacked roster in 2021, there’s no chance Boras is going to let any team off the hook. He’ll be dead set on getting Seager the most money possible, and it’s hard to blame him.
The Padres signing Tatis to the contract that they did was for entirely different reasons than most teams would. San Diego isn’t exactly a premier destination for free agents and the Pads took a (very good) risk in a sense by securing a future icon of the sport with a massive deal that will more than likely, if everything goes as planned, save them money in the long run. No player comes close to securing a fraction of that money after just 143 career games. It’s just never happened before.
So compare him to a veteran like Seager, who will be entering his age-27 season this year. Seager has a Rookie of the Year award to his name, two Silver Slugger awards, two All-Star Game appearances, a top-three MVP finish (and two other years in which he received MVP votes), and postseason prestige. Plus, he’s a lefty bat, which is always more valuable for a middle infielder. All Tatis has is a Silver Slugger and a top-four MVP finish in a shortened campaign.
What will be the reason not to secure Seager a shorter-term contract with similar AAV to Tatis, whose deal will average out to pay him $24 million per year until it’s completed? Perhaps his defense, which isn’t exactly pristine (-5 DRS for his career), but Tatis already has -3 for his career.
Though Tatis comes with tremendous marketing potential, especially from an international standpoint, contracts in free agency, especially with agents like Boras, are negotiated on performance and merit.
So let’s just say that it’s probably not going to be at all convenient for the Dodgers to re-up their stud shortstop if he blows the competition out of the water again in 2021.