Dodgers have mostly easy arbitration decisions among 12 eligible players

The annual projected 2023 arbitration numbers by MLB Trade Rumors dropped a couple weeks ago, and it’s a little difficult to squeeze that in during a postseason run — even if it was short … sigh.

Anyway, I looked at it briefly in my 40-man roster reset, but let’s go a little more in depth right now.

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The Dodgers have 12 arbitration-eligible players, which is the most in the Andrew Friedman era. They had 11 arbitration-eligible players all the way back in 2015 — his first offseason as Dodgers’ President of Baseball Operations.

LA has done well to lock up some players during the arbitration period, even if just for a year or two. Guys like Austin Barnes, Walker Buehler, Max Muncy and Chris Taylor all signed some form of arbitration extensions that bought out some years. But this year, there are a lot of first-time eligible guys. Here’s the list:

Keep in mind these are projections, but if they are all accurate, the 12 players will account for $57.8 million of next year’s payroll. And aside from the $18.1 million elephant in the room (on the list?), everyone will be tendered contracts.

Urias is in his final year of arbitration and, while the Dodgers would love to sign him long-term, it probably isn’t going to happen — he is, after all, a Scott Boras client. Buehler is out until 2024, but he has already been worth well more than the $8.1 million. Smith has a hefty first-year arb number, so he’s going to start getting really expensive, and he could be an extension candidate before too long. Gonsolin’s first-time number is significant, considering he had thrown just 142 1/3 innings in his career before 2022. He threw 130 1/3 innings of All-Star ball this past season and, if he’s able to keep it up, will also be getting more expensive.

All the other first-timers could be big parts of the team going forward. Hard to believe that could be said about guys like Almonte, Phillips and Thompson (prior to the season), but they’re young, they’re cheap and they’re good. That’s going to help the Dodgers use their financial advantage elsewhere to improve the team.

And then we come to Bellinger. He was projected to make $15.9 million as a third-time eligible player last winter before agreeing to a $17 million deal just before the lockout. The projected $1.1 million raise isn’t outlandish, but this is his final year before free agency and he just isn’t the player he was just three short years ago. I wrote more in-depth about the conundrum a couple weeks ago.

“Bellinger’s tenure with the Dodgers has been a tale of two halves. The first half of his career, he was a fan favorite and franchise cornerstone. The second half has been riddled with poor performance, injury and subpar play, if you consider expectations. If I’m Friedman, I probably take a chance on Robert Van Scoyoc and Brant Brown getting Bellinger back to at least average form, but I’m not Friedman. The Dodgers have until Dec. 2 to decided about tending him a contract. He could also be traded by that time. We’ll see what happens. And whatever happens, Bellinger has certainly given Dodger fans some good and not-so-good memories.”

He’s a real candidate to be non-tendered. If that happens, the Dodgers could use some of the savings on a new shortstop or rotation help. That would leave some kind of Taylor, Thompson and James Outman platoon in center field. The defense would be pretty good, but the offense would leave something to be desired. Then again, Bellinger has been one of the worst hitters in the game over the last three years, so maybe the offensive production wouldn’t be that big a detriment.

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While long-term deals for Urias and/or Smith would be nice, they aren’t expected. And the biggest question is what the Dodgers will do about Bellinger. They have about a month (Dec. 2) to decide.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.