2022 MLB Winter Meetings Recap: Dodgers Still Have Significant Needs

The 2022 MLB Winter Meetings took place this week in San Diego, and it led to numerous mega-deals for some of the top free agents.

Although the Los Angeles Dodgers entered the meetings with multiple needs that included a shortstop, outfielder, starting pitcher and bullpen help, they came away from the week empty-handed.

There wasn’t even much on the rumor front as most of the updates were about L.A. looking for shorter-term and cheaper contracts than what was being handed out around the league.

The Dodgers watched the New York Yankees sign Aaron Judge to a nine-year, $360 million contract; along with the rival San Diego Padres adding another elite hitter in Xander Bogaerts to an 11-year, $280 million deal. Justin Verlander, who was one of the Dodgers’ top targets, agreed to a two-year, $86.6 million deal with the New York Mets; and Mitch Haniger signed with the San Francisco Giants on a three-year, $43.5 million contract.

All were players that the Dodgers expressed at least some interest in, but it’s unknown how far they got in any of the negotiations.

Of their own group of free agents, Trea Turner joined the Phillies on a $300 million contract over 11 seasons; Cody Bellinger signed with the Chicago Cubs for one year and $17.5 million; Andrew Heaney joined Jacob deGrom with the Texas Rangers on a two-year, $25 million deal; and Tommy Kahnle returned to the Yankees on a two-year, $11.5 million contract.

The Dodgers also saw the St. Louis Cardinals agree to a deal with Willson Contreras, the Boston Red Sox sign Kenley Jansen, Jose Quintana head to the New York Mets, the Chicago Cubs land Jameson Taillon, the Philadelphia Phillies add to their rotation with Taijuan Walker and the Cleveland Guardians agreeing with Josh Bell.

None of those players were connected to the Dodgers in free agency rumors.

The day after the Winter Meetings ended, two more quality players went off the board as David Robertson and Brandon Nimmo signed with the Mets. The Dodgers did, however, make a signing by agreeing to a Minor League deal with five-time Gold Glove winner Jason Heyward.

The top free agents remaining are all at positions of need for the Dodgers with shortstops Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson still on the board, along with starting pitcher Carlos Rodón.

However, as of the latest reports, the Dodgers are not pursuing Correa or Rodón.

What is next for the Dodgers?

The Dodgers are not going to enter the season with the roster they currently have, but they have made it somewhat difficult to address their needs. Although the team insists there is no mandate to get below the luxury tax threshold for the 2023 season, they are operating as if that is a priority, which makes any significant moves unlikely.

They could make trades to fill in some of their needs, but as of right now they are relying on prospects to become starting-caliber players or important depth, which makes it more difficult to trade them in order to get a significant deal done.

For example, Bryan Reynolds would be a great fit for the Dodgers, but to acquire him they would likely need to trade at least two of Michael Busch, Andy Pages, Miguel Vargas or Bobby Miller, and possibly Ryan Pepiot if Miller is not included.

If the Dodgers were to make that trade, they would fill a need in the outfield, but weaken their pitching depth and force them to add another infielder.

Kevin Kiermaier remains available and he was someone the Dodgers checked in on. Manager Dave Roberts also said adding a center fielder is one of the team’s top priorities, and they want to add a left-handed bat, which makes him an obvious fit all-around.

Michael Conforto is also an intriguing option on the free agent market, but he missed the entire 2022 season due to shoulder surgery and it’s unlikely he regains his power in his first season back.

For adding to the rest of their lineup, re-signing Justin Turner still makes sense, and some other players who could be fits are J.D. Martinez, Michael Brantley, Andrew McCutchen, A.J. Pollock, Adam Duvall, Brandon Drury, Elvis Andrus and Jean Segura.

On the starting pitching market, the top remaining non-Rodón players are Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Bassitt, but both received the qualifying offer and would cost two draft picks to sign. Following them, Corey Kluber, Noah Syndergaard, Sean Manaea, Micahel Wacha, Wade Miley, Ross Stripling, Michael Lorenzen, Rich Hill, Zack Greinke and Mike Minor are the remaining options.

Seth Lugo is also a free agent and the Dodgers reportedly have some interest in adding him to their rotation, which is the right-hander’s preferred role.

But he has spent the majority of his career as a reliever and has yet to throw more than 101 innings in a season, which happened in 2018.

In the bullpen, it’s likely the Dodgers continue looking to sign low-risk, high-reward players rather than targeting any of the top options. But if they do wish to add someone with more experience in the late innings, Adam Ottavino, Michael Fulmer, Taylor Rogers, Andrew Chafin, Chad Green, Matt Moore and Brad Boxberger are the top arms available.

Matt Wisler also seems like the type of player L.A. would target after showing intriguing traits from 2019-21 but struggling in 2022.

In all likelihood, the Dodgers will sign a few of the mid-tier free agents, some upside players, and possibly make a trade for a more impactful player.

It isn’t the ideal offseason, but getting under the luxury tax every third year is something they will continue to do. And regardless, every year the playoffs show it doesn’t matter how many games you win in the regular season as long as you get a chance to win in October.

Rule 5 Draft results

The annual Rule 5 Draft also took place during the final day of the Winter Meetings, and it led to some change in the Dodgers organization.

Among their prospects selected in the Major League phase of the draft were Ryan Noda (Oakland Athletics), Jose Hernandez (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Gus Varland (Milwaukee Brewers), while they selected no one. All three players must stay on the Major League roster for their new clubs for the 2023 season or they will be offered back to L.A.

In the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 Draft, the Dodgers lost catcher Kekai Rios to the Blue Jays and right-handed pitcher Jose Martinez to the Cardinals. To add some organizational depth, they selected right-handed pitcher Yon Castro from the Yankees, right-hander Carlo Reyes from the Phillies and outfielder Josh Stowers from the Rangers.

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