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Dodgers face looming decision on Corey Seager

Seager will be a free agent after the 2021 season

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2020 World Series Game 4: Los Angeles Dodgers v. Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Dodgers offseason checklist has very few actual pressing matters this winter, except for probably third base, which may or may not be filled with the return of Justin Turner.

But one of the things in the near future that the Dodgers could address now is signing shortstop Corey Seager to a contract extension, one year before he hits free agency. At his healthiest in four years, Seager had hit best season in 2020, hitting .307/.358/.585 in the regular season and .328/.425/.746 in the postseason. He combined for 23 home runs in 70 games, and along the way won MVP of both the NLCS and World Series.

It doesn’t have to happen now, of course, and the 2021 Dodgers will have Seager — unless they trade him — whether they sign him to a long-term deal or not. But the Dodgers do have room in the budget to add another large contract into the mix.

In 2021 they have $128.3 million committed to eight players, and if the MLB Trade Rumors arbitration projections come true, that increases to $160.6 million for 15 players, including about $11.6 million for Seager.

At the moment, the Dodgers have only four players under contract for 2022 — Mookie Betts, David Price, Max Muncy, and A.J. Pollock for a total of $60 million, with only Betts on the books for 2023. Several of the club’s current stars will be in the salary arbitration process, but there is flexibility in the long term, even if current stars like Seager, or Cody Bellinger or Walker Buehler, sign long-term deals.

Andy McCullough at The Athletic analyzed the Seager situation, noting that a long-term contract for Seager decreases the likelihood of similar deals down the road for Bellinger and/or Buehler. McCullough also noted the bevy of premium shortstops potentially available along with Seager on the free agent market, including Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, and Javier Baez.

In other words, the Dodgers have options.

As for Seager, he doesn’t sound too concerned about his pending free agency just yet, since it’s still a season away. He told McCullough:

“That’s in the future,” Seager said. “That’s not something that you can think about and dwell on and worry about throughout the year and over-analyze every AB, things like that. For me, it’s just going out there and playing, man. And the way the chips roll out, they roll out.”