Major League Baseball's offseason is in full swing, and things figure to get even more frantic with the Winter Meetings starting next week. So before it's too late, let's get out in front of the forthcoming deluge of signings and trades and tell certain notable teams how they should be conducting their business.
This time up, it's the perennially mighty Los Angeles Dodgers and lead decision-maker Andrew Friedman, who will nod dismissively when confronted with our unsolicited advice. In each instance, we strive to be realistic in addressing each team and operate under the awareness that teams can't force players to sign with them or force other teams to trade with them. So consider these to be "politely recommended hypotheticals" as opposed to "unyielding marching orders."
Anyhow, assume the position, Dodgers, and be crushed under the weight of our counsel. Do these things now.
1. Go get Shohei Ohtani
Let's not overthink such matters. Shohei Ohtani is the best and most famous baseball player in the world, and as such he presents a generational opportunity in free agency. He's been heavily linked to the Dodgers thanks to the organization's high level of success that's been sustained across several seasons and the geographic familiarity they present to the long-time Angel. The Dodgers are also a revenue powerhouse and, more often than not, willing spenders. That's to say nothing of L.A.'s past efforts to land the two-way phenom.
On a more practical level, the Dodgers have an immediate need at DH thanks to the assumed free-agent departure of J.D. Martinez. Ohtani, of course, would fill that role perfectly, as he's among the very best hitters in all of baseball. Dropping him into a lineup that already includes the likes of Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and Will Smith is, to say the least, a tantalizing prospect. While Ohtani won't pitch in 2024 thanks to the elbow procedure he underwent, he would help satisfy the Dodgers' long-term rotation needs starting in 2025.
To state the obvious, the competition for Ohtani will be intense with teams like the Rangers, Cubs, Red Sox, and Mets prepared to spend $500 million or more on him, but the Dodgers have a number of early advantages on this front. Don't squander them.
2. Trade for Corbin Burnes
As just mentioned in passing, the Dodgers have some rotation concerns right about now. That's the case even if they bring back franchise legend Clayton Kershaw thanks to his age and durability concerns (he's not expected to even pitch until the summer after shoulder surgery). Walker Buehler returns from Tommy John surgery, and he's of course a worthy presence at the front end. Youngster Bobby Miller has also earned a role for 2024 and beyond. Yes, Dustin May will probably be back at some point next season, but the Dodgers still need a needle-mover. That brings us to Burnes.
The Brewers appear to be (yet again) scaling back payroll, and that may lead them to deal Burnes going into his walk year. The 29-year-old right-hander is indeed a legit ace. Burnes has a Cy Young and three All-Star selections to his credit, and for his career he's put up an ERA+ of 129 with 870 strikeouts in 709 1/3 innings. In 2023, Burnes put up an ERA of 3.39 over 32 starts for Milwaukee. Burnes would greatly improve the front of the Dodger rotation, and the organization has the wherewithal to sign him to an extension that keeps Burnes in L.A. should both parties have interest.
Given how many aspiring contenders are starved for starting pitching, the cost in trade could be higher than you might think for a walk-year guy. The Dodgers, however, have enough appealing young talents to make a compelling offer for him.
3. Add infield help
The Dodgers will benefit from the assumed return of Gavin Lux coming off the knee injury that cost him all of 2023, and he could fill the role at second base or short (assuming he's not dealt to Milwaukee in the aforementioned Burnes swap). Miguel Rojas returns, but he's best deployed as a reserve.
To plug the other hole in the middle infield, the Dodgers could investigate trading some of their young pitching depth to the Cardinals as part of a deal for Brendan Donovan or Tommy Edman. If they have more modest aspirations, they could dip into the thin crop of free agents and bring back deadline acquisition Amed Rosario or the veteran Elvis Andrus as depth. Elsewhere on the trade front, the Reds are thought to be shopping Jonathan India. Internally, Michael Busch is probably ready for a shot at full-time or at least primary duty at second base.
If Lux is dealt or unable to man short because of his repaired knee, then the Dodgers may be in a bit of a pinch. That said, the lineup will be otherwise so strong that they can handle some potentially lackluster production from these premium positions.