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Dodgers offseason outlook: Los Angeles looks to repeat as World Series champions, still has issues to resolve

Last month, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays to secure their first World Series championship since 1988. The Dodgers had lost two of the last three World Series, so the title was all the more sweeter. After trading for and later signing Mookie Betts to a 12-year, $365 million deal to stay in L.A. before last offseason, the Dodgers cemented themselves as the best team in baseball in 2020, and it’s more than likely that they’ll be one of the best teams next season, too. There isn’t any pressure on the ball club to make a splash signing this offseason, nor a huge need to do so.

However, as always, the MLB offseason brings with it plenty of uncertainties for every team. And while the Dodgers are expected to bring back the majority of their core roster, they’ll still have to resolve some issues if they want to become the first repeat champion since the New York Yankees won three consecutive World Series from 1998-2000. 

Now, let’s take a look at three of the most pressing issues:

1. Turner’s status still up in the air

It’s been a very slow and quiet start to the MLB free agency thus far. Aside from Mets starter Marcus Stroman accepting the club’s qualifying offer, the remaining top free agents this winter remain unsigned. Our No. 7 ranked free agent, Justin Turner, is among those. Turner, 36, has been a mainstay with the club since he signed with the Dodgers as a free agent in 2014. He fared well in the abbreviated 2020 season, slashing .307/.400/.460 with four home runs, nine doubles and 23 RBI.

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that during Game 6 of the World Series, Turner returned to the field after learning that he had tested positive for COVID-19, leaving his mandated isolation. Despite the irresponsible and potentially harmful decision, it does not seem like this will factor into the Dodgers’ decision to bring Turner back. In fact, it was Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman who defended Turner’s actions.

Major League Baseball completed its investigation into Turner’s Game 6 behavior, and both Turner and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred both issued statements as part of the investigation’s wrap-up. No punishment, be it a suspension or fine, was mentioned in the league’s official release.

For what it’s worth, here at CBS Sports, all of us predict that Turner will re-up with the Dodgers. 

Turner is the big name from the Dodgers’ batch of contributors who qualify for free agency, but the others include outfielder Joc Pederson, utilityman Enrique Hernandez, and relievers Pedro Baez and Blake Treinen

2. Will L.A. go for it in the trade market?

The quick answer is probably not.

But, with rumors of the Dodgers inquiring about division-rival Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, it’s possible the club could decide to make a move. According to CBS Sports’ Jim Bowden, the Dodgers are looking to add a right-handed bat this winter, and very interested in Arenado. 

The Dodgers could offer a pitching prospect or two along with catcher Keibert Ruiz to get the trade done, Bowden adds. Acquiring Arenado would especially help the Dodgers if in fact Turner signs somewhere else. They’d be in need of a new third baseman, and Arenado’s been impressively productive throughout his career.

Arenado, 29, grew up in California as a Dodgers fan, and the assumption is that he would waive his no-trade protection to play for them. The five-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove winner signed an eight-year, $260 million contract, reportedly with a full no-trade clause through 2026 but can opt out for free agency after the 2021 MLB season.

And even without a potential Turner departure, Arenado would still be a good fit for the Dodgers. Turner could always go back to first base, allowing Arenado to take over as the everyday third baseman. While Turner’s still solid at the plate, his defensive stats have dropped off as he enters his age-36 season, so the switch for Arenado at third would benefit all parties involved. Turner would also be a prime candidate for designated hitter, though it’s not yet known if the universal DH will be adopted for the 2021 season.

Other possible right-handed bat additions the Dodgers could try to go for via trades could include CubsKris Bryant or even, Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor

3. Will the Dodgers sign Seager to extension after torrid postseason?

Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager is entering his final season before free agency, and it’s fair to wonder if the Dodgers will make progress in extension talks with agent Scott Boras this winter. Seager, 26, took home both the NLCS and World Series MVP awards to cap off a phenomenal postseason.  

After winning NL Rookie of the Year in 2016, Seager was sidelined for most of the 2018 season due to injuries. He returned in 2019 but had his breakthrough in 2020. The sudden revival of Seager’s career — his outstanding playoff performance especially — puts a bit of pressure on the Dodgers to get a deal done, and get it done soon. 

Aside from Seager, Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler figure to be two more candidates for extensions in the future. Bellinger reaches arbitration eligibility next year and free agency in 2024, while Buehler is arbitration eligible in 2022 and scheduled for free agency in 2025.

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