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Dodgers 2021 offseason roster breakdown

A busy winter awaits

87th MLB All-Star Game
Corey Seager, Clayton Kershaw, and Kenley Jansen, the three longest-tenured Dodgers, are all free agents the day after the World Series.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Dodgers 2021 season is over, and they head into a potentially transitional winter with so many key players with uncertain futures.

“In the six years I’ve been here, it’s been a core group of guys that could potentially be turned over this winter. I’m not looking forward to it,” manager Dave Roberts said after Saturday’s season-ending loss in Game 6 of the NLCS. “They’re great players and great men, and I wish we could have won another [World Series] with this group.”

At the moment, the Dodgers have 50 players on the 40-man roster, including everyone on the 60-day injured list. Here’s where they stand heading into the offseason.

Free agents (11)

Danny Duffy
Cole Hamels
Kenley Jansen
Clayton Kershaw
Corey Knebel
Jimmy Nelson
Albert Pujols
Max Scherzer
Corey Seager
Steven Souza Jr.
Chris Taylor

In this group is a ton of Dodgers memories, including the three longest-tenured members of the organization in Kenley Jansen (signed as an international free agent out of Curacao in November 2004), Clayton Kershaw (drafted in 2006), and Corey Seager (drafted in 2012), and an indispensable lineup fixture for five years in Chris Taylor, the man who can play all over the field. Oh yeah, and a frontline starting pitcher in Max Scherzer, who had one of the best finishing runs as a Dodger after he was acquired at the trade deadline.

“Potentially, to not see those guys back, it’s sort of a changing of the guard if they’re not back,” Roberts said. “I’m certainly going to miss them personally, and the team’s going to miss them.”

These players will become free agents the morning after the World Series ends.

The qualifying offer for high end free agents — determined by the average of the top 125 salaries during the previous season — is $18.4 million per Buster Olney of ESPN, down from $18.9 million last year. The three Dodgers candidates most likely to receive a qualifying offer this offseason are Kershaw, Seager, and Taylor. Should they decline and sign elsewhere, the Dodgers would get a compensatory 2022 draft pick following the fourth round.

As players who previously received a qualifying offer as a free agent, Jansen (following 2016) and Scherzer (following 2014) are ineligible to receive another qualifying offer.

Options (1+1)

The Dodgers hold a $12 million club option on Joe Kelly for 2022, with a $4 million buyout. Per the collective bargaining agreement, all options must be decided within five days after the World Series ends.

Forgotten man Trevor Bauer can opt out of the final two years of his contract. Bauer has a $32 million salary for 2022, but if he opts out within the next few days — all MLB option years must be exercised or declined within the first five days after the World Series — he gets a $2 million buyout. But realistically, Bauer counts in the next category:

Under contract (9+1)

Player Service time 2021 salary 2022 salary Signed through
Player Service time 2021 salary 2022 salary Signed through
Austin Barnes 5.098 $1,800,000 $2,600,000 2022
Tommy Kahnle 6.131 $1,300,000 $3,450,000 2022
AJ Pollock 9.052 $15,000,000 $10,000,000 2022~
David Price 11.164 $32,000,000 $32,000,000 2022
Blake Treinen 7.065 $7,000,000 $9,000,000 2022
Max Muncy 5.027 $7,500,000 $11,500,000 2022*
Justin Turner 11.045 $10,000,000 $16,000,000 2022*
Trevor Bauer 7.158 $38,000,000 $32,000,000 2023#
Walker Buehler 3.168 $3,750,000 $7,250,000 2024^
Mookie Betts 7.070 $22,500,000 $22,500,000 2032
*team option | ~player option | #multiple player opt-outs ^signed through 2022, arbitration-eligible through 2024

MLB’s pending investigation into Bauer, who missed the final 81 games of 2021 on paid administrative leave, could affect his contract. If suspended, he wouldn’t be paid, but it’s unclear if or how long into 2022 that could be, and/or what the Dodgers might do once MLB’s investigation is over. At the moment, Bauer is on the restricted list and doesn’t count against the 40-man roster, and won’t until at least his MLB investigation is resolved.

AJ Pollock could have opted out of his contract after 2021 had he accumulated either 1,450 plate appearances from 2019-21 or 1,000 PA in 2020-21. He wasn’t close to the former, but in extrapolating his 210 PA from a truncated 60-game 2020 season, that’s the equivalent of 567 PA in 162 games. Add in his 422 PA in 2021, and he fell just 11 plate appearances shy of being able to opt out this year. Pollock after the 2022 season does have a $10 million player option for 2023, or a $5 million buyout if he declines.

Walker Buehler increased his 2022 base salary from $3.25 million to $6.25 million by surpassing 28 starts in 2021 (he also gets $1 million of his signing bonus on January 15, which is why his total is listed at $7.25 million in the table above). If Buehler wins this year’s Cy Young Award, his 2022 salary gets another $1.125 million bump, and if he finishes in second or third place, his salary next year will increase by $625,000.

Austin Barnes increased his 2022 base salary by $100,000 by surpassing 70 games played this year (he played 77). Next year, Barnes has performance bonuses of $100,000 for each of 70 and 80 games played.

Mookie Betts is entering the second year of a 12-year, $365 million contract.

The Red Sox are paying half of David Price’s $32 million salary in the final year of his contract.

Those 10 contracts total $130.3 million ($98.3 million without Bauer), with a competitive balance tax number of roughly $132.6 million. The caveat here is, with no collective bargaining agreement yet in place beyond December, we don’t exactly know what the CBT threshold will be for 2022, or how the system will be implemented, if at all.

Salary arbitration-eligible (5)

Player Service time Options (used) 2021 salary 2022 estimate
Player Service time Options (used) 2021 salary 2022 estimate
Trea Turner 5.135 2 (2016) $13,000,000 $19,800,000
Scott Alexander 5.039 1 (2016,2020) $1,000,000 $1,300,000
Cody Bellinger 4.160 3 (none) $16,100,000 $16,100,000
Julio Urías 4.117 1 (2016-17) $3,600,000 $8,800,000
Caleb Ferguson 3.093 2 (2019) $600,500 $700,000
2022 estimates from MLB Trade Rumors

Cody Bellinger is coming off one of the worst regular seasons a former MVP has ever had, a year plagued by injuries and poor performance, though he rebounded with several key postseason moments, hitting .353/.436/.471 in the playoffs. Given his relatively high arbitration salary, there’s at least a nonzero chance he could get non-tendered, though that seems highly unlikely, especially after his strong October showing. It might behoove both sides to work out a contract that covers his final two years of arbitration eligibility.

For what it’s worth, Tim Dierkes’ 2022 arbitration projections at MLB Trade Rumors has Bellinger making $16.1 million next year, his same salary as 2021.

With the same CBT caveats above, adding those arbitration projections to the players under contract, the Dodgers have 15 players making $177 million, with a competitive balance tax number of $179.3 million. That includes Bauer.

Players with 0-3 years service time (24)

Pos Player Service time Options (used) 2021 salary
Pos Player Service time Options (used) 2021 salary
1B/OF Matt Beaty 2.115 1 (2019, 2021) $590,500
OF Billy McKinney 2.107 0 (2018-20) $578,100
C Will Smith 2.090 3 (none) $590,500
RHP Dustin May 2.059 3 (none) $590,500
3B Edwin Ríos 2.043 2 (2019) $590,500
RHP Brusdar Graterol 1.167 2 (2021) $590,500
RHP Tony Gonsolin 1.152 1 (2019-20) $580,500
RHP Evan Phillips 1.136 0 (2018-20) unknown
IF/OF Gavin Lux 1.114 2 (2020) $580,500
LHP Victor Gonzalez 1.103 1 (2020-21) $580,500
LHP Alex Vesia 1.103 2 (2021) unknown
RHP Jimmie Sherfy 1.060 0 (2017-19) unknown
LHP Garrett Cleavinger 0.168 1 (2020-21) unknown
IF/OF Zach McKinstry 0.148 1 (2020-21) $573,000
RHP Phil Bickford 0.145 1 (2020-21) unknown
RHP Mitch White 0.099 1 (2020-21) unknown
IF Sheldon Neuse 0.078 1 (2020-21) unknown
IF/OF Andy Burns 0.074 1 (2016, 2021) unknown
LHP Justin Bruihl 0.057 3 (none) $570,500
OF Luke Raley 0.051 1 (2020-21) unknown
LHP Andrew Vasquez 0.045 1 (2019, 2021) $570,500
LHP Darien Núñez 0.030 2 (2021) $570,500
OF Zach Reks 0.015 2 (2021) unknown
RHP Andre Jackson 0.004 2 (2021) $570,500

Gavin Lux just missed using an option year in 2021, by not being on optional assignment a total of at least 20 days. Lux was optioned a total of 15 days.

There are a lot of fringe players in this group who could be sent outright off the 40-man roster and exposed to waivers, especially with an almost-full 39 players (not counting Bauer) before any offseason moves are made.

I don’t have all the 2021 salaries for the players with under three years of service time, but the major league minimum was $570,500 this season, and most of these salaries are at least reasonably close to that number.

Important dates

November 4-8 (fifth day after the World Series ends): Teams must extend qualifying offers to free agents by 2 p.m. PT.

November 4-8 (fifth day after the World Series ends): The five-day “quiet period” of free agency is over, meaning players are free to sign with new teams. Players are allowed to re-sign with their old team during the quiet period.

November 14-18 (15th day after the World Series ends): Players have until 2 p.m. PT to accept the qualifying offer.

November 19: Deadline to set rosters for the Rule 5 Draft. Players eligible to be picked away include high school draftees from 2017 (like shortstop Jacob Amaya, for instance) or college picks from 2018 (such as pitcher Michael Grove or outfielder James Outman, to name a few). The normal date for this is November 20, but that falls on a Saturday this year, and this is the last business day before then.

December 1: The collective bargaining agreement expires at 8:59 p.m. PT, which is likely the most important date of all this offseason.

December 2: Teams must tender contract to players on the 40-man roster by 5 p.m. PT.