The Los Angeles Dodgers did all they could to defend their World Series championship last season, overcoming a myriad of injuries across the roster to reach the National League Championship Series before succumbing to the eventual 2021 World Series champion Atlanta Braves.
The Dodgers will open the season on April 7 as the favorites to reclaim the highly-competitive National League West division title, but they enter Spring Training with some unresolved issues, especially on the pitching side of the equation. Here are three burning questions facing manager Dave Roberts and the Dodgers:
Will Freddie Freeman be their starting first baseman in 2022?
The Dodgers continue to be a player in the Freddie Freeman free agency sweepstakes, along with the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves, who seem less likely to retain their slugging first baseman as each day goes by without a deal.
Freeman would slot in nicely as the Dodgers’ first baseman, allowing Max Muncy, recovering from UCL surgery on his left elbow, to play second base and serve as the designated hitter.
“I would love to see Freddie Freeman in a Dodger uniform. Who wouldn’t?” Roberts told the media on Friday. “He’s a heck of a ball player. He’s put himself in a situation to be a free agent. He’s earned that right and the opportunity to be courted by other teams and to see what’s best for him and his family. Certainly in the conversation for us, but ultimately it’s gonna be his decision.”
Will Trevor Bauer be part of the rotation?
Trevor Bauer’s pathway to returning to the mound for the Dodgers cleared a bit in February when the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office decided not to file charges against the pitcher over allegations of sexual assault. But Major League Baseball, which could not address the matter during the lockout, extended Bauer’s placement on administrative leave for another week, through March 19.
Bauer has been on administrative leave since the middle of last season, and could still face an official lengthy suspension by the league. There is precedent for suspensions even after assault charges have been dropped, and while the Dodgers are hopeful to get their $102 million man back on the mound, there are no guarantees.
If Kenley Jansen signs elsewhere, who becomes the closer?
After a decade of high-wire acts and a World Series championship in 2020, it appears the Kenley Jansen era at closer is coming to an end. Jansen is a free agent and the Dodgers are not expected to match the types of offers Jansen is likely to field on the open market.
But for all his close calls and heart-attack inducing performances since 2012, his departure would leave an enormous hole at the back of the bullpen. Set-up man Blake Treinen is likely to get the first opportunity to lock down the closer role, but flame-throwing Brusdar Graterol could be an option, as well.
Who fills out the starting rotation?
Clayton Kershaw re-upped with the Dodgers on a one-year deal at the end of last week, and as long as he can stay healthy, he slots into the rotation with Walker Buehler and Julio Urias. If the league chooses not to suspend Bauer, then he becomes the fourth man in the rotation.
If Bauer is suspended for a lengthy period of time, the Dodgers will likely fill the remaining two spots in the rotation with Andrew Heaney, whom the team signed to a one-year deal before the lockout, and Tony Gonsolin, if his shoulder has recovered from off-season surgery.
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