In this article, I'll be predicting the landing spots and contracts (at least the general ballpark of a deal) of the free agents possibly leaving the Dodgers this year. Pretty simple stuff, so let's get into it!
Note: With regards to the Dodgers' payroll, I'm assuming that Trevor Bauer will be suspended and miss the 2022 season, thus voiding his salary from the Dodgers' 2022 payroll.
Photo Credit: Kevin Sullivan/OC Register
SP Clayton Kershaw - Dodgers for 1 year, $30 million
This might be somewhat controversial, but it shouldn't be. At all. While his ERA was the highest it's been since his rookie year at 3.55 (bloated by 3 or so bad starts), Kershaw was one of the best pitchers in baseball until his forearm injury in early July. In 22 starts, Kershaw posted a FIP of exactly 3.00, an xFIP of 2.87 (both statistics bloated by some inconsistency in his performance between IL stints in September) and a 3.4 fWAR, which was top 5 in the league before his injury. Essentially, when Kershaw is healthy, he still shoves. Big time. Obviously, there's no guarantee that he'll be healthy for 2022, but all signs have pointed toward him being ready for spring training. While it's possible Kershaw could sign with the Texas Rangers based on their proximity to his home in Texas, I personally can't see Kershaw leaving the Dodgers organization that drafted him when his health is slightly uncertain, he and his family have lived in LA for a long time, and there is a ginormous disparity in competitiveness between the two clubs. As far as the high AAV for the deal, seeing Justin Verlander get $25 million from the Astros having barely pitched over the last two years, I figured this would be reasonable for Kershaw, especially considering the deal would only be one year. I'm not afraid to bet on Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers shouldn't be either.
SS Corey Seager - Yankees for 10 years, 300 million
I hate to say it but I think Seager is gone. It's been reported that he might sign soon and the Yankees and Dodgers are the clear favorites, with the Dodgers being mentioned more in recent reports. However, I think that the Dodgers are probably being used to leverage the Yankees into paying a little more than they want to for Seager. I don't think the Dodgers don't want to bring him back - I think they do, just not for more than, say, 8 years $275 million or so (I'd sign him to that deal right now). The extra two years scare me because they will be Seager's age 36 and age 37 seasons, and considering his injury history and how players decline with age I'm not sure it's worth it. Sometimes, obviously, a team has to commit that to get a player's prime years, but I don't think the Dodgers are in that situation considering they have Trea Turner for at least next year, a strong farm system and player development team that can churn out a good shortstop soon (Michael Busch? Jacob Amaya?), and a bunch of other young players they'll have to pay soon. The Yankees, however, might need to spend this kind of money for Seager considering how perfect a fit he is. They desperately need a monstrous lefty power bat to stick between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in their batting order. They also have a glaring hole at shortstop at least for next year before their two shortstop prospects are MLB ready. When that happens, Seager can slide to 3rd base to make room for one of them or one of those prospects can learn 3rd if Seager is insistent on continuing to play shortstop into his 30s. Regardless, I think the Yankees just need and want him a little more than the Dodgers do, which is why I think he'll end up there (sort of similarly to how Gerrit Cole did). It's possible the Rangers could just in on the Seager bidding as well, but considering how much Corey likes the Dodgers organization and that he grew up a Yankees fan, I'd have to imagine they'd have to overwhelm both teams' offers in order to sway him to sign there (although we know can hit well in that ballpark).
SP Max Scherzer - Dodgers for 3 years, 150 million
This deal might seem insane, but consider a couple of things. Most MLB insiders have had it around this ballpark, and while it seems like a lot of money to give a 37 year old pitcher, it's only for 3 years and Scherzer has shown no signs of slowing down. After being traded to the Dodgers, he was absurdly dominant until a mechanical issue derailed his last couple starts. Scherzer, however, fixed that issue and pitched well in the NLDS until fatigue from saving Game 5 caught up with him in the NLCS. For some, this might be worrying, but considering the disruption to his normal routine and the fact that he would've started NLCS Game 7 had there been one, I'm putting much more stock in the season that he had, especially with the Dodgers. Scherzer finished 3rd for the NL Cy Young award, posting a 2.46 ERA, 2.97 FIP, 3.24 xFIP, a 11.84 K/9, and only a 1.81 BB/9. According to Fangraph's wins above replacement metric, Scherzer was the 5th most valuable pitcher in baseball with a 5.4 fWAR (just behind teammate Walker Buehler). That is, simply put, staggering for a pitcher his age, and nothing in his performance shows any indication that Scherzer might be a candidate for major regression. Obviously, there's always concerns with age and injury, but he's about the best bet you can have for a pitcher his age and is still one of the best starters in baseball. The Dodgers seem like a logical fit considering the mutual interest and his preference to be on a winning team on the West Coast. They are widely favored to be his preferred landing spot and I can't see any reason to disagree.
INF/OUT Chris Taylor - Dodgers for 4 years, 60 million
Taylor is an interesting case because until this year, he was one of the most underrated players in baseball. Then, he had a monster first half, made the National League All-Star Team, slumped in the second half, and had a monster postseason. It's somewhat hard to pinpoint a contract for him, but considering his floor is a slightly above average bat with decent defense at essentially every position on the diamond, and considering he's been rumored to get a deal around this value, 4 years $60ish million makes sense to me. From 2017-2021 with the Dodgers, CT3 had an OPS+ of 113 and hit 79 homers (remember - the 2020 season was only 60 games, so that greatly affects counting stats) while playing second base, shortstop, every outfield position, and occasionally 3rd base. That's a really, really valuable baseball players, as I'm sure everybody reading this article knows. I don't think it's unreasonable for his next for years to be, well, pretty much identical to his last 4 considering he'll only be 35 when the deal is up. Moreover, I'm not great at estimating players' monetary values, so I'll not dispute the experts here. I think a return to the Dodgers is likely, considering that's the organization that turned him into an All-Star utility stud, but plenty of teams will be interested, so it's far from a sure bet. I think if the Dodgers offer him a competitive offer, though, he won't be going anywhere.
CP Kenley Jansen - Phillies for 4 years, 60 million
Unfortunately, I think Jansen's career as a Dodger is over. After struggling somewhat since 2018 but showing signs of a resurgence in 2020, the best closer in franchise history had a dominant 2021 campaign and returned to form as a top closer in baseball, and I think he's going to get paid like one. While Jansen struggled with walks for the first half of the 2021 season, he fixed that issue in the second half and limited home runs far more than he had in the past and his strikeout rate rose in the second half after he incorporated his slider/curveball (idk how to classify it exactly but it's gross) into his arsenal more. There's not much to say about Jansen that hasn't already been said, but I don't see the Dodgers paying him like a top closer for more than the next two years, and I think another team probably will, considering how awful bullpens are around the league and how closers are generally overvalued by teams. I think the Phillies are a likely destination because their bullpen is a disaster and has been for years, their GM Dave Dombrowski is very aggressive, and bringing in an established name like Jansen will be good for the clubhouse and somewhat appease their rowdy fanbase. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see him land anywhere (including staying in LA) that could use some bullpen help. He should have a great market and he deserves to get another huge contract if he can. While obviously I think he'd love to stay in LA and the Dodgers would love to keep him, they're going to be wary about his age (34) and the volatility of relief pitchers. I wouldn't give him more than 2 seasons and I don't think they will, which is why I don't think he'll stay, as sad as it is.
RP Joe Kelly - Dodgers for 2 years, 12 million
I would not sign Joe Kelly to a two year deal, but I think the Dodgers will. They seem to like more than I do, but obviously they know much more about the situation than I do. Kelly has had stretches of dominance in his Dodgers career, but most of it has been mediocre and injury-riddled. However, Kelly is a good influence in the clubhouse and a solid reliever who, if he can stay healthy (he's supposedly going to be ready for Spring Training), he's a solid option at the end of games. I just worry about inconsistency, especially in his command, and personally would rather roll with some young guys. However, it's possible Kelly gets paid to close for another team and gets a much bigger contract. I'm honestly kind of guessing at this point because there's been essentially no buzz in the reliever market.
RP Corey Knebel - Phillies for 3 years, 24 million
I think the Phillies are going to poach Knebel, along with Jansen, after a comeback 2021 season for the longtime Brewers closer. Knebel was hurt for most of the 2021 season but was pretty good when he was healthy, posting a 2.45 ERA, 2.90 FIP, and 29.7% strikeout rate. I'm a little worried about inconsistency, but the main reason I don't see the Dodgers retaining him is because he will likely command a multi-year deal, and his health is too big a question mark in my opinion. If I had to guess where he'd sign, the Phillies seem likely but it's possible he'll want to be a closer (in this little scenario I'm building here Jansen will be closing for the Phillies for the foreseeable future). Any team that needs a closer or a big relief arm is a possible landing spot for Knebel, and I do see him getting paid closer money based on his pedigree and 2021 performance when healthy.
1B Albert Pujols - Dodgers for 1 year, 5 million
What the hell, right? Pujols is beloved by the team and can still rake against lefties (.900+ OPS against) and occasionally hits massive dingers. He's fun and a great teammate. He won't command a massive contract and we might as well keep him around for the exact same role he filled last year (think David Freese 2018-2019). Maybe the Cardinals will sign him for a swan song in St. Louis before he retires, but I think that if they had any intention of doing that they would have done it last year.
RP Jimmy Nelson - Dodgers for 1 years, 2 million (club option for 2023)
I don't know when Jimmy Nelson will be healthy again after Tommy John surgery during the 2021 season (and another procedure I believe), but he was legitimately a top reliever in baseball when healthy in 2021 (1.86 ERA, 1.89 FIP, 13.66 K/9) so I think betting on him makes sense for such a small amount of money. It's incredibly low risk and pretty high reward if it works out.
I did include predictions for Cole Hamels, Danny Duffy, or Steven Souza Jr. because, if they return to Los Angeles (very unlikely, I'd imagine), it'll probably on a league minimum or minor league contract.
I hope you enjoyed these free agency predictions for all of the (possibly) departing Dodgers. Do you agree with these predictions? Let me know in the comments here or on Twitter! Be on the lookout soon for more of this but with all the top free agents in MLB!