LAS VEGAS —
They are the two longest-tenured players in the Dodgers organization.
But as Major League Baseball’s offseason began in earnest Tuesday, kicking off with the league’s general manager meetings, the futures of Clayton Kershaw and Justin Turner remained in doubt.
Kershaw is a free agent for the second straight winter and appears once again likely to pick between a return to the Dodgers — who have until Thursday to decide whether to extend him a qualifying offer — or a homecoming with the Texas Rangers.
Turner, meanwhile, has a club option with the Dodgers worth $16 million for next season. The team has until Thursday to decide whether to pick it up, although the Dodgers also could explore the possibility of buying out Turner’s current deal (which would cost $2 million) and re-signing him at a lesser salary.
The one thing Andrew Friedman, the team’s president of baseball operations, made clear while talking to reporters Tuesday: The Dodgers hope both are back with the team next season — even if it’s currently unclear exactly how, or when, their situations will be resolved.
“It is a priority for him to come back,” Friedman said of Kershaw, “and we’ll figure that out.”
“The priority is that we show up in Glendale [Ariz.] and for him to be a part of what we’re doing next year,” Friedman said about Turner. “What exactly that looks like, we need time to work through.”
With Kershaw, the Dodgers faced similar circumstances last November.
The likely future Hall of Famer was a free agent for the first time. He intended to continue his decorated career but wasn’t ready to choose between the Dodgers (his only major league team) and the Rangers (who play right down the road from his and wife Ellen’s offseason home in Dallas). And he took most of the lockout-impacted offseason to arrive at a decision.
The Dodgers decided against extending a qualifying offer to Kershaw last winter as a courtesy to the pitcher, giving him more time to contemplate his future even though it meant they risked losing him without getting any draft compensation in return.
On Tuesday, Friedman said the team hadn’t decided about a qualifying offer this year — which would give Kershaw until Nov. 20 to either accept or decline a one-year, $19.65-million contract — but hinted that the calculus would likely be the same.
“Things just feel more right in the world when Kershaw is wearing a Dodgers uniform,” Friedman said. “That’s just how it lands with us. We couldn’t respect more him and Ellen going through this process. But it’s definitely a real priority for us [to have him back].”
The Rangers, however, loom as a threat.
They would allow Kershaw, his wife and their four children to not have to split the year living between Los Angeles and Texas.
Their general manager is Chris Young, one of Kershaw’s closest friends in baseball.
And Kershaw was so close to signing with the Rangers last year that, when he ultimately did pick the Dodgers after the end of the lockout, he called Young to tell him the news.
“I was broken-hearted,” the Rangers’ GM recalled Tuesday.
And how hard will Texas pursue Kershaw this winter?
“I can’t answer specifically,” Young said, noting that MLB is still technically in a free-agent quiet period. “But certainly, he’s a tremendous player. I think all 30 teams would love to have Clayton Kershaw.”
Turner represents another big decision for the Dodgers.
The third baseman will be 38 next season and is coming off a 2022 season in which his numbers were above league average but below his lofty career norms.
If that makes his $16-million option too hefty for the Dodgers to feel comfortable picking up, the team could still pay his buyout and instead try to sign him to a new deal. However, that would also allow the two-time All-Star to test the free-agent market and potentially sign with a different team.
“It’d be great to end my career as a Dodger,” Turner told AM 570 last week. “But things don’t always go as planned. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The next few days should provide more clarity for both players’ fate — and signal whether two of the Dodgers’ biggest faces of the franchise will return to Los Angeles in 2023.
The Dodgers did announce Tuesday that they have declined their club options for infielder Hanser Alberto and pitchers Jimmy Nelson and Danny Duffy, making all three free agents.
The moves did not come as a surprise. Alberto was a positive presence in the team’s clubhouse this season but was left off its playoff roster after batting just .244 in 73 games. Nelson and Duffy both missed the season because of injuries.
The Dodgers claimed outfielder Luke Williams off waivers from the Miami Marlins. A former third-round pick out of Dana Hills High, the 26-year-old Williams has a career .240 batting average in 137 games with the Marlins, San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies.