Where do Dodgers and Walker Buehler stand after long-term extension talks?
You might be fairly shocked to learn that the Los Angeles Dodgers have Walker Buehler under club control for another three seasons. He cannot become a free agent until after the 2024 season.
Feels like he’s been here forever with all of his early career successes, right? He’s already a postseason force at just 27 years old. He could very well have one of the most extensive October resumes in the game when all is said and done.
But what about his future with the organization? Buehler’s worth much more than the $4.25 million he’ll be earning in 2022, though that figure stands to exponentially increase in both 2023 and 2024.
Figure this: by the time Buehler is a free agent, we can almost assure that at least Justin Turner and Clayton Kershaw will be gone. You could make a fairly strong argument for Cody Bellinger as well. Julio Urías might be, too, since he’s a free agent after 2023. Is it possible LA opts not to pay Buehler for his age-30 season and beyond if the roster isn’t where the front office wants it to be?
What’s Walker Buehler’s future with the Los Angeles Dodgers?
When asked if the Dodgers would be willing to sign Buehler long-term, here’s what team insider Fabian Ardaya (subscription required) said in his latest mailbag via The Athletic:
"“Yes. They have, and they’ve tried to, according to a report from Fox Sports. Buehler reportedly turned down that overture last spring in an effort to bet on himself and turned in the best year of his career in response. He is in line to make a lot of money. The Dodgers certainly can give it to him, and he hasn’t shown public dissatisfaction with the idea of being a Dodger long-term. But he didn’t want to do a deal at that time.”"
Nothing in regard to specifics (dollar figure or length of deal) was reported when the two sides spoke last spring, but now that Buehler’s turned in a career season and increased his price, is there a greater likelihood there’s no revisiting this until after the 2024 season? Throw this year out the window for negotiations because the lockout has thrown a wrench in everything, and the Dodgers have much more to worry about when they’re allowed to add to their roster when a new CBA is signed.
After turning the Dodgers down, Buehler finished fourth in the Cy Young voting after going 16-4 with a 2.47 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 212 strikeouts in 33 starts (207.2 innings), all of which were career highs/bests except for Ks. Without an innings limit or injuries holding them back, he proved he can be an ace with a full workload and maintain his form for the most part in the postseason (he saved the Dodgers in Game 4 of the NLDS before fatigue really got to him in the NLCS).
Nonetheless, throw in escalating costs, the Dodgers’ uncertain future from a personnel perspective, and more demand than ever for starting pitching, and the Dodgers just lost out on the premier chance they had to get Buehler at somewhat of a discount. And that could change everything as the next three seasons unfold.