The Major League Baseball Winter Meetings have come and gone and one team that stayed quiet was the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers were linked to just about every big-name free agent leading up to the meetings, but they instead watched Trea Turner sign with the Philadelphia Phillies, Justin Verlander with the New York Mets, Jacob deGrom with the Texas Rangers, Aaron Judge with the New York Yankees and Xander Bogaerts with the San Diego Padres.
In addition to those big names, the Dodgers have also lost some of their own with Tyler Anderson going to the L.A. Angels, Cody Bellinger to the Chicago Cubs, Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees, Chris Martin to the Boston Red Sox and Andrew Heaney to the Rangers.
As far as additions, the Dodgers have only brought back Clayton Kershaw and signed Shelby Miller to this point.
With that being the case, is it time for Dodger fans to panic, or is it not a big deal?
I’ll do my best here to talk Dodger fans off the ledge, because I really don’t think it’s panic time.
Dodgers staying below luxury tax?
While they haven’t come out and said it directly, it seems that the Dodgers are intent on getting below the luxury tax threshold this season. That will help reset the tax penalties, which become greater each year you go over, and allow L.A. to spend even more in future years.
If fans want to be upset about this, I get it. The Dodgers are an organization that basically prints money and theoretically, their window to win is right now.
They should be spending big to help make up for all of the losses discussed above. When looking at the roster, the Dodgers still have needs at shortstop, outfield and starting pitcher.
But the one thing about the Dodgers that I appreciate and agree with is that they never overpay. The Dodgers have never been a team to show up to the Winter Meetings and open up their checkbook, getting in a bidding war with dozens of teams for the biggest names.
The track record
The only two “big” free agents the Dodgers have signed in recent years were Freddie Freeman and Trevor Bauer. And both signings came after the turn of the new year, when Andrew Friedman waited out the other suitors and found contract terms that he and ownership were comfortable with.
I would expect the same to be the case this year. No, the Dodgers did not get Judge or Turner or Bogaerts. And no, they probably won’t get Carlos Correa either.
But once all of these teams are done with their spending sprees, there will still be some good players left over that the Dodgers can get for a bargain price considering there will be fewer suitors.
Even if the Dodgers are staying below the luxury tax, they still have around $43 million to spend while being able to accomplish that. Plus, this team has thrived on under-the-radar trades and free-agent signings, so I would expect more of the same to supplement the roster.
The Japanese elephant in the room
But what about the big moves?!
I know that’s what a lot of Dodger fans are asking right now, especially when seeing a division rival like the Padres tossing around big contracts left and right.
My response to that would be that the Dodgers always have a plan. And although they won’t come out and say it, that plan is looking pretty clear right now.
It’s been the elephant in the room for a while now, but arguably the greatest talent in MLB history will hit the free agent market next winter and that’s Shohei Ohtani.
We know the Dodgers have coveted Ohtani for a while now. They tried to sign him out of high school when Friedman first became enamored, and then they made another run at him before he ultimately signed with the Angels.
If the Dodgers sit out the spending spree this offseason, then I think it’s fair to assume their plan is to open the checkbook for Ohtani when he becomes available in a year. Or perhaps he even becomes available via trade this summer if the Angels have another disappointing season.
Regardless, I know Dodger fans will be upset at the team staying below the luxury tax in 2023. But if we just be patient, it may all be worth it a year from now when they add Ohtani.
Until then though, it’s important to remember that the Dodgers won 111 games last year so they can afford a few losses while still being really good. They also have some top prospects that deserve playing time and it looks like they will finally get their opportunities.