Potential Return Candidates (and Actual Contributors)
Ryan Brasier - Dodgers
The Dodgers can't not re-sign Brasier after what they got out of him in 2023. The Red Sox ditched him after a number of underwhelming years, then the Dodgers scooped him up and got an 0.70 ERA and 0.72 WHIP in 38.2 innings. Did his value increase? Sure. But it's definitely not going to reach prohibitive levels, and you'd have to think Brasier might want to re-up with the side that helped him get on track and fulfill his potential.
Shelby Miller - Dodgers
OK, fine, the Dodgers can't let the one injury reclamation project that actually worked leave. Miller was scooped up by LA last offseason and ended up pitching in 36 games, which was impressive because he logged just 45 from 2017-2022. He posted a 1.71 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in 42 innings but lost a good amount of time due to a neck injury. As upsetting as it sounds, that'll help the Dodgers in the negotiations, and, like Brasier, we'd have to think Miller might want to remain with the team that got the most out of him.
Kiké Hernández - Yankees
Back to the depth discussion! The Dodgers probably have a good shot at retaining Hernández if they want him, but they spurned him once back after the 2020 season and have much bigger free agency endeavors to handle this time around. Hernandez woke up after being acquired at the trade deadline (he was struggling badly in Boston), but his versatility and postseason prowess will be in demand. He probably won't be waiting around for the Dodgers, and we think a fellow struggling contender like the Yankese will jump in and get this done rather quickly.
Jason Heyward - Dodgers
Heyward signed a minor-league contract last offseason, wasn't expected to make the roster, and emerged as one of the team's most important players. The Dodgers took another floundering veteran, tapped into the talent well, and gave the man new life. Heyward came to LA because of Freddie Freeman's influence, and it's hard to see him leaving because he's still making money off the Cubs. The Dodgers will give him a raise, and that should be enough to get a deal done.
JD Martinez - Twins
It very much feels like JD Martinez is gone. Why? Because either Shohei Ohtani or Max Muncy will be the designated hitter in 2024. Ohtani can't pitch in 2024, which means hitting will be his sole job. If the Dodgers are truly the frontrunners, this deal will get done if both sides desire it. Muncy's defense is on the decline, and if the Dodgers can help it, they probably shouldn't be starting him at third base every day. Martinez also had a great year and played himself into a multi-year contract. Look for a team like the Twins, who could use a bit more offense and improve their contender status, to add another veteran to the mix (they'll be saying goodbye to Joey Gallo and will have no choice but to keep playing Byron Buxton in the outfield).
Clayton Kershaw - Retirement
We're sadly watching Clayton Kershaw breaking down before our very eyes -- and it's been happening for quite some time. This year was especially depressing because he got off to a great start, then had his season derailed with an injury, then returned in time for the stretch run/postseason, and couldn't have ended 2023 on a worse note. He was clobbered by the D-backs, allowing six runs in 0.1 innings of work. It sounds awful to end a career that way, but Kershaw has said health will be the biggest factor as he weighs his future, and we don't see that improving for him. He doesn't really care about individual accolades, so that 3,000 strikeout mark may not matter much to him. We really don't see him going to the Rangers at this rate, either. Call it a return to the Dodgers with an understanding he's present just to record the K milestone, or retirement, which we very much feel could be the case since the last three promising seasons have ended in absolute disaster for the Dodgers. We can't take much more of that, and we're sure Kershaw can't either.