The Los Angeles Dodgers want nothing to do with the self-imposed luxury tax “salary cap” that most MLB teams seem spooked by these days.
Even so, though, we have no idea what’s ahead of us this offseason, as a new set of CBA talks between the union and MLB establishment looms.
Will they come to a swift agreement, with some new rules and revenue sharing changes peppered in? Eh, probably not. This is going to be extremely annoying. And, at the end of the discussions, even the richest teams in the game might end up trying to shed payroll — or, at least, they might be a little reticent about adding new expenses.
Forever, we’ve assumed the Dodgers would always find a way to pay for anybody they wanted. But this offseason, as the competition sizes up their potential free agents, there might be a bidding war or two in LA’s budget. And with Max Scherzer also in their sights, things may not be what they seem — especially, again, if some financial rules get changed along the way.
So, who stays for the Dodgers in 2022? Who goes?
There are a few free agents who seem likely to be priorities, and for the sake of this exercise, we’re going to place their possible departures on the back burner. Everyone who’s watched this team in 2021 has surely realized by now how essential Chris Taylor is, and while the All-Star should be “pricey,” again, he’s not going to earn the type of contract the Dodgers should pass on. He plays nearly every position and he churns this team’s engine. We’re going to keep him, especially after letting Kiké Hernández and Joc Pederson walk last year.
Scherzer himself should be a priority, too, especially since he’s expressed a preference for the west coast, and we know the rival Padres are interested after nearly landing him at the deadline. That could quickly turn into a bidding war, one the Dodgers have to win.
With those moves in mind, it’s difficult to see these three players fitting in next season and beyond, as tough as a few of these theoretical departures may be to handle.
These 3 Dodgers could leave LA this winter.
3. Joe Kelly
At the end of the season, we think it’s (clears throat) far more likely the Dodgers take the $4 million buyout on Joe Kelly’s deal rather than pick up the $12 million team option. Call us soothsayers.
Approaching the end of Year 3 in Los Angeles — one of them cut very much short by a pandemic — Kelly’s eternally going to be more well-known in the City of Angels as the Man With the Pout. He’ll be remembered for his face more than his pitching. But you know what? Every postseason run needs iconic moments. The Dodgers probably wouldn’t have paid $25 million for a sneer at the Astros if you’d told them that’s what they were buying back in 2018, but at the end of the day, he’ll always be a hero in these parts.
In 2019, the electric Kelly continued to pile up strikeouts (62 in 51.1 innings pitched), but posted an unimpressive 4.56 ERA and was on the mound for the most upsetting moment of the season (arguably), Howie Kendrick’s NLDS grand slam.
He was much better in the shortened 2020 (1.80 ERA) and got significant high-leverage work throughout the postseason, and he’ll forever be remembered as a major part of that championship team, just like he was in Boston in 2018.
This year? Barely available, at best. 29.2 above-average innings is solid, sure, but unless Kelly can be had on a one-year flyer at the minimum, we think Andrew Friedman will look elsewhere to fill the middle innings.