The Los Angeles Dodgers are having a grand old time during the 2023 season, and it's best if fans live in the present and soak in all the team's unexpected success thus far. Then again, keeping an eye toward the offseason is an inevitable practice for anybody following the team religiously.
When November arrives, all of Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías, JD Martinez, Kiké Hernandez, David Peralta, Shelby Miller and Amed Rosario will be free agents. The position players and relievers are replaceable, but it's next to impossible to bring in two other starters who can replicate what Kershaw and Urías do.
It also doesn't help that starting pitching is the most sought-after asset in any given offseason and teams far more desperate than the Dodgers are willing to go above and beyond to secure whatever names are available. The last few offseasons proved that when Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Carlos Rodón, Marcus Stroman and Gerrit Cole were signed to massive contracts.
Thankfully for the Dodgers, Kershaw isn't chasing money -- he's in it for the freedom and flexibility, which could help them yet again (although retirement or defection to the Rangers remain possibilities). As for Urías? He's probably as good as gone if Scott Boras is ready for him to test the open market.
The Dodgers are expected to be hot on Shohei Ohtani, but that'll be no easy feat. As for the rest of the starting pitching market, they'll be battling with the out-for-blood St. Louis Cardinals, who just experienced one of the most disappointing campaigns in recent memory.
Dodgers Rumors: Cardinals could get in LA's way during free agency
The Cards conducted a partial sale at the deadline, but made sure to hang onto their top assets in preparation for a rebound in 2024. Two of their trades featured Jack Flaherty to the Orioles and Jordan Montgomery to the Rangers -- pitchers they had planned to let walk in free agency anyway.
Adam Wainwright will also be a free agent, which leaves three high-profile vacancies in their rotation -- an area of the roster they've fallen significantly short with for a while now. Can they trust Steven Matz to continue his rebound, too? Is Matthew Liberatore turning into someone they can trust?
Either way, reports are suggesting the Cardinals will be chasing three starting pitchers in the offseason (and we're assuming those targets will be of the Flaherty/Montgomery/Wainwright caliber). That puts the Dodgers in a tough spot as it pertains to bidding on both free agents and negotiating trades.
This offseason will feature Ohtani, Kershaw, Urías, Stroman, Montgomery, Flaherty, Aaron Nola, Lucas Giolito, Blake Snell and Michael Lorenzen as unrestricted FAs. Eduardo Rodriguez, Charlie Morton, Kyle Hendricks and Alex Cobb all have options, but they could also be available (Rodriguez, of course, did just scuttle a deadline deal to LA to keep in close proximity to his family).
If the Dodgers reject Lance Lynn's $18 million option and decide to part with the struggling Tony Gonsolin, that'll put them in an even more precarious spot as it relates to replenishing the rotation. They might not have the luxury to make both of those moves, given how the landscape is shaping up.
There's certainly confidence the Dodgers will get done what they need to, but an impetuous contender looking to make multiple splashes after letting down their fanbase in a massive way this season could prove to be a complicated road block.