Just like last winter, the Dodgers are giving Clayton Kershaw plenty of time to contemplate his future.
The latest evidence came Thursday, when the team declined to extend the future Hall of Famer a qualifying offer for the second consecutive offseason.
Had the Dodgers done so, Kershaw would have had 10 days to decide whether to accept a one-year, $19.65-million contract for the 2023 season. If Kershaw chose to decline it, the club would have been able to recoup draft pick compensation in the event he signs elsewhere as a free agent.
However, just as they did when Kershaw entered free agency for the first time last year, the Dodgers withheld the qualifying offer before Thursday’s deadline, ensuring the pitcher won’t have to make a major decision on his future at the outset of the offseason.
If Justin Turner is going to return to the Dodgers for a 10th season next year, his agents and the club’s front office will have to negotiate a new contract for the veteran third baseman.
That became the reality Thursday, after the Dodgers declined Turner’s 2023 club option of $16 million and elected to instead pay a $2-million buyout that will make him a free agent this winter.
The Dodgers are still hopeful of bringing Turner back. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said as much this week at the league’s general manager meetings, indicating the club will attempt to negotiate a new contract for the soon-to-be 38-year-old Turner.
“The priority is that we show up in Glendale [Ariz., for spring training] and for him to be a part of what we’re doing next year,” Friedman said.
With their other qualifying offer decisions, the Dodgers did extend offers to shortstop Trea Turner and pitcher Tyler Anderson prior to Thursday’s deadline.
Trea Turner’s qualifying offer was a no-brainer, with the shortstop certain to decline the offer and instead enter free agency, where he is in line to net a massive payday as one of this winter’s biggest available names.
The decision for Anderson, however, was much less obvious.
After a breakout season in which he went 15-5 with a 2.57 ERA, the soon-to-be 33-year-old is expected to net multi-year offers as a free agent.
However, the option of a one-year contract worth almost $20 million could entice the seven-year veteran.
Both players will have until Nov. 20 to make their decisions.
How quickly Kershaw’s fate is determined, on the other hand, remains unclear.
When asked about his future during the final weeks of the season, Kershaw said repeatedly that he is not leaning toward retirement, even after spending a couple months last season on the injured list with back problems.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner remains one of the majors’ most effective pitchers when healthy, coming off a 12-3 campaign in 2022 in which he posted his lowest full-season ERA (2.28) in four years.
Last winter, Kershaw said his decision came down to the Dodgers and Texas Rangers, the Dallas native’s hometown team. He ultimately signed a one-year, $17 million pact with the Dodgers, citing the chance to win a second World Series as the biggest factor.
This offseason, the Dodgers are prioritizing another reunion with Kershaw. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Brandon Gomes said they had been communicating with the pitcher over the last several days. They also emphasized that they wanted to give Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, as much time as they needed to make a decision.
“Things just feel more right in the world when Kershaw is wearing a Dodgers uniform,” Friedman said at this week’s general manager meetings. “That’s just how it lands with us. But we couldn’t respect more him and Ellen going through this process.”
After Thursday’s decision, it’s a process that could now drag on longer into the offseason, with one important deadline already bypassed.
Justin Turner has also voiced his hope of staying in Los Angeles during interviews this month, though he also told AM 570 last week that “things don’t always go as planned” and “we don’t know what’s going to happen” moving forward.
Thursday was the Dodgers’ deadline to make a decision on Turner’s club option, which was part of the two-year deal he signed prior to the 2021 season after spending most of that winter as a free agent.
And while the Dodgers will attempt a similar reunion this offseason, their decision to not pick up his option opens the door for Turner to explore other destinations as well entering his 15th big league season.
While Turner had his least-productive performance as a Dodger in 2022, he was still an above-league-average weapon in the middle of the team’s order.
He batted .278 and collected a career-high 36 doubles. He hit just 13 home runs but still managed a .788 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. After a slow start to the campaign, he rebounded significantly over the second half of the year, too, posting the second-best batting average in the majors after the start of July.
After battling a leg injury late in the regular season, Turner struggled against the San Diego Padres in the playoffs, going just two for 13 in the team’s stunning early elimination.
Still, he remained a key figure for the Dodgers on and off the field, trailing only Kershaw as the team’s longest-tenured current player.
On the open market, Turner could generate interest from other clubs, beckoning as a proven veteran bat likely available on a short-term, lower-risk deal.
Nonetheless, after so many years with the Dodgers, and with mutual interest apparent from both sides, a return to Los Angeles still seems to be the lieklier outcome.
Thursday’s decision, after all, didn’t end his time with the Dodgers.
For it to continue, though, the sides will have to hammer out a new deal for one of the longtime faces of the franchise.