August 4, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Dave Roberts discusses the future of Justin Turner, David Price and the Dodgers

The Dodgers are less than two months removed from winning the World Series. Manager Dave Roberts said Thursday he’s still on a high. The blend of joy and relief remains intoxicating.

But 2021 is around the corner and questions about the Dodgers’ title defense are the focus. Roberts was asked some in a videoconference with reporters Thursday that replaced the media session conducted at the Winter Meetings every year.

The biggest uncertainty is third baseman Justin Turner’s future. Turner went from non-roster invite to fan favorite, clubhouse leader, and clutch performer in his six seasons with the Dodgers. He’s still one of the best third basemen in the majors. But Roberts emphasized that Turner re-signing with his hometown club isn’t a foregone conclusion.

“He’s one of the Dodger greats,” Roberts said. “He really is. And I think it’s been six years he’s been a Dodger and he’s in elite company. His body of work is really special, unique. But it’s a two-way deal here. So, it’s the organization, the Dodgers, and it’s also Justin and his family, that they got to make a decision. So, for me, selfishly, I’ll take him for as long as I can have him.”

Roberts said he last spoke with Turner the night before shortstop Corey Seager’s wedding earlier this month. He said they didn’t spend much time on Turner’s free agency. He expects to connect with Turner again next week.

If Turner doesn’t return, the Dodgers have in-house options to play third base, but would still look to acquire a right-handed bat. Max Muncy, Edwin Riós, and Chris Taylor are at the top of the list to log innings at third base. The best external choices can be found on the trade market, which includes Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado and Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. Both hit right-handed.

“We’re open to the best option, and best encompasses a lot of different things, the fit, the skill set, the talent and also the cost,” Roberts said.

Roberts repeated that the Dodgers’ other priority is adding a “leverage” reliever. The club has addressed the bullpen by trading for Corey Knebel, an All-Star closer for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2017, and signing right-handers Brandon Morrow and Jimmy Nelson to minor-league contracts with invites to spring training.

The three pitchers are low-cost risks that could pay dividends. Ryne Stanek would also fit that description. The Dodgers have expressed interested in the hard-throwing right-hander, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, after the Miami Marlins declined to tender him a contract earlier this month.

Stanek, 29, posted a 7.20 earned-run average in nine relief appearances for Miami in 2020. He enjoyed his best season in 2018 for the Tampa Bay Rays when he compiled a 2.98 ERA and had 11 strikeouts per nine innings in 59 games. Stanek made his major-league debut with the Rays in 2017 — four years after Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, then the head of Tampa Bay’s front office, drafted him in the first round.

Another possibility is re-signing Blake Treinen. The 32-year-old right-hander is testing the free-agent market after being one of Roberts’ most trusted relievers in 2020. An agreement remains feasible. Pedro Báez, however, is unlikely to return after seven seasons in the Dodgers’ bullpen.

Roberts spoke Thursday a month to the day after Cody Bellinger, the 2019 National League MVP, underwent surgery to repair his right shoulder. The manager said Bellinger’s recovery is “ahead of schedule” and he expects Bellinger to be “somewhat active” for the start of spring training, which remains unclear. He added that the injury and subsequent procedure aren’t concerning enough to move Bellinger from center field.

Bellinger dislocated the shoulder when he bashed forearms with teammate Kiké Hernández after clubbing the go-ahead home run in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves.

David Price, acquired by the Dodgers in February, watched it from home. The 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner, citing his and his family’s health during the COVID-19 pandemic, decided to opt out of the season in July. The assumption is Price will participate in 2021. He has hinted he will return on social media. But Roberts on Thursday said he isn’t 100% sure if Price will join the team next season.

“I think David is very in tune with what is going on, very intelligent,” Roberts said. “And so I don’t know…I just love being around him and I know we’re better when he’s with us. But, as things become more clear, David will make a choice for him and his family.”

Price would slot into the Dodgers’ rotation behind Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw with Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin, and Dustin May rounding out the ensemble. His absence would create another hole for the Dodgers to fill. But the Dodgers don’t expect one. They have other, more pertinent questions to focus on.