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Why are the Dodgers not spending this offseason?

Both the Giants and the Padres have handed out nine-figure contracts to free-agent superstars, while the Dodgers have done nothing. Should fans be worried?

The San Francisco Giants and Carlos Correa agreed to a thirteen-year, $350 million contract last night. In most years this would be the biggest MLB free agent news of the offseason, but this was the third $300 million+ contract handed out in the past ten days. A fourth came just $20 million short of the $300 million mark, as the San Diego Padres signed shortstop Xander Bogaerts in an attempt to keep up with the 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers.

And the Dodgers have responded with pretty much nothing.

That’s not exactly true, as the Dodgers have signed two free-agent pitchers to one-year deals: Clayton Kershaw and Shelby Miller, at $20 million and $1.5 million, respectively. That’s a little over 6% of the money the Giants are giving to Correa. Oh, and they’re trying another reclamation project with a 33-year-old Jason Heyward. So there’s that.

More notable is the star power the Dodgers have let walk in free agency. One year after letting World Series MVP Corey Seager sign a nine-figure deal in Texas, the Dodgers never even attempted to retain shortstop Trea Turner as he left for Philadelphia. Former MVP Cody Bellinger signed a one-year prove-it deal with the Chicago Cubs, and franchise cornerstone Justin Turner remains unsigned after the Dodgers refused to pick up his club option for 2023. And to replace these players, the Dodgers have done nothing, at least on the open market.

For a team that has spent money like a Russian oligarch for the last decade, this quiet offseason looks downright eerie. And especially since both the Giants and the Padres spent money and got a lot better, it’s curious to see the Dodgers respond with silence. Should Dodger fans be worried?

The Dodgers will be fine

A similar conversation happened last year when the Dodgers let both Seager and Max Scherzer walk into free agency, only to set the franchise record with 111 wins in 2022. It helped that they signed Freddie Freeman to a six-year, $162 million deal, but it’s inarguable that the team lost a lot of talent and still played better than ever. They’re hoping to repeat that process this season.

Former super prospect Gavin Lux finally broke through at second base last year, and Dodger fans should feel okay about him taking the open shortstop position at least for next season if they can’t land a shortstop in free agency. Utility player Chris Taylor can easily slot in at third base full-time, and Trace Thompson is unquestionably a superior option to a struggling Bellinger in centerfield. There should be a concern that what used to represent the Dodgers’ roster depth will now be placed in full-time starting roles, but bench players come far more cheaply than superstars on the open market if needed.

It helps that the Dodgers have an unbelievable farm system. Every year there seems to be a new guy the Dodgers call up from Double-A that looks like a 3-4 WAR player, and there’s a very good chance that someone we’ve never heard of before will step into a starting role. In a sense, this was always the plan: Spend money on free agents until player development improved, at which point promotions can be done from within the organization. It’s how the Astros have become a juggernaut.

But can the Dodgers be a 100-win team while sitting on the sidelines in free agency?

They don’t have to replicate last year’s success

The Dodgers didn’t win the World Series last year not because of roster construction issues, but because a lot of their best pitchers got hurt toward the end of the season. Even with all of the player losses, they still have one of the most talented rosters in the majors and should be able to compete for a championship.

With the added playoff spot, Dodger fans shouldn’t necessarily worry if the Padres or Giants are closing the talent gap in the division. Another 100-win season should be nice, but considering three teams made the playoffs last season with fewer than 90 wins, a season with a win count in the low-to-mid 90s should comfortably get the Dodgers to the postseason. Vegas currently projects their over/under at 103.5 wins, the best in the majors, so it’s safe to pencil the Dodgers into the postseason regardless of how the rest of their offseason goes.

What will happen once they reach the postseason? That’s anyone’s guess, but there’s an entire season to play, first.