The Los Angeles Dodgers were eliminated from the postseason by the New York Mets on Thursday evening. A lot of questions will be raised about how a team that used Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke twice each in a five-game series couldn't find a way to be victorious. However, the team with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz proved to be no pushover as the "pitching wins championships" group gained another arrow in their quiver.
Andrew Friedman and his braintrust will have a ton of options going into 2016. With a seemingly-unlimited payroll, it's almost a fool's errand to guess what they are capable of. Let's get to it:
Where they stand: 2016 payroll obligations
Going into 2016, the Dodgers have already committed more than $166 million to payroll according to Cot's Contracts. That's enough payroll to be more than the 2015 Opening Day roster of 25 other teams and they haven't signed any free agents. Their payroll obligations for next season are more than double the 2015 Opening Day roster of the Oakland Athletics (where current GM Farhan Zaidi came from). It's hard to understate the payroll flexibility this team has under its current ownership group.
$110 million of that payroll accounts for five players: Kershaw, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Brandon McCarthy. That's not a whole lot of 'core' positions covered so it might be in the Dodgers' plans to try to unload one of the pricey outfielders to free up some cash for an infielder.
Pending Free Agents
Included in that $166 million payroll obligation is also Greinke's $26 million. However, he has an opportunity to opt-out this off-season. He's due $78 million over the next three seasons and there's no doubt he could fetch much more than that on the open market. Of course, just because Greinke opts out doesn't preclude the Dodgers from the Greinke-sweepstakes; all it means is that they'll have to pay him fair market value.
Other than Greinke, the Dodgers have Jimmy Rollins, Brett Anderson, and Howie Kendrick all becoming eligible for free agency. Rollins isn't the player he used to be and his replacement-level services might not be worth retaining, especially with an emerging Corey Seager. After signing for what a lot of people thought was above market value, Anderson actually put together a pretty nice year for the Dodgers and pitched in more than 170 innings for the first time since 2009. Kendrick's services would be good to retain to complement Seager in the middle-infield.
Other payroll factors: Arbitration
Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, A.J. Ellis, and Chris Heisey are all going into their final arbitration years. Futhermore, Juan Nicasio, Yasmani Grandal, Chris Hatcher, and Scott Van Slyke are all arbitration-eligible as well. Of that list, Jansen is the most-likely candidate to get a long-term offer. In all likelihood the Dodgers will also want to retain Grandal's services for the future, but he won't be eligible for free agency until 2019 so there's no rush to lock him up. Frankly, all of these players will be easy to re-sign provided Zaidi and Friedman decide they want them in their system.
On top of Seager being ready-to-play going into 2016, Julio Urias is probably the most major-league-ready player in the system. Jose Peraza came up for an underwhelming cup of coffee in 2015. Whether Zaidi banks on Peraza being ready enough to replace Kendrick would be a difficult bet to take. However, Peraza's time in AAA is definitely running out.
Where do the Dodgers go from here?
The final piece of the puzzle that the Dodgers will have to address is their managerial situation. Despite a third consecutive first place finish in the NL West, the Dodgers will most-assuredly be looking for a managerial replacement this off-season and that probably bodes well for the team. Not because Don Mattingly is a categorically bad manager, but he did seem to lose the clubhouse. Nothing could have epitomized this better than the tiff he had with Ethier during Thursday's elimination game.
While the Dodgers will have to put a concerted effort into interviewing a manager, Zaidi and Friedman's biggest winter task will likely revolve around what to do with Greinke (assuming he opts-out). With Hyun-Jin Ryu and McCarthy returning, the Dodgers could commit payroll elsewhere, but having a rotation with those four in it is mightily attractive.