After being eliminated from the postseason in 5 games by the division rival Padres, the Dodgers have turned their focus to the offseason earlier than expected coming off a 111-win campaign. This offseason is sure to be a significant one for the Dodgers, as Trea Turner, Clayton Kershaw, Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney, Joey Gallo, and Craig Kimbrel are among their players who will test free agency this offseason, with it also being possible that Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger depart in the event that the Dodgers decline Turner’s club option and non-tender Bellinger.
Even with so much potential roster churn this offseason, shortstop appears to be the biggest question mark for LA headed into 2023 given Turner’s pending free agency. Even as Jon Heyman of the New York Post and The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya both mention Turner’s willingness to sign with the club long term, Heyman mentions that the Dodgers “appear to have landed on” Carlos Correa as their preferred replacement for Turner in free agency while Ardaya notes that president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has been non-committal about continuing to spend well above the luxury tax going forward and has mentioned a desire to integrate the talent LA has at the upper levels of its farm system into the 2023 big league club.
As Ardaya notes, however, Jacob Amaya is the only shortstop in that group of upper-minors talent Friedman noted, and he was below average offensively at Triple-A this season, slashing just .259/.368/.381 across 84 games in the offense-heavy Pacific Coast League. Thus, it’s worth looking more closely at the fit between Correa and the Dodgers.
At first glance, Correa may seem to be Turner’s equal or superior in most regards. Correa’s .291/.366/.467 slash line in 2022 shows him to have slightly outproduced Turner on a rate basis this season, as Turner slashed a slightly less impressive .298/.343/.466. Looking under the hood, it would also appear that Turner has more luck baked into his numbers this season than Correa, with Turner’s wOBA of .350 slightly outpacing his xwOBA of .335, whereas Correa’s .362 wOBA is a near match for his .363 xwOBA. In addition to comparing favorably to Turner with the bat, Correa’s reputation with the glove far outstrips that of Turner, as Correa has frequently rated well with defensive metrics throughout his career and even won the Platinum Glove in the AL last season.
Correa is also a bit over a year younger than Turner, who will celebrate his 30th birthday next June. That age gap should mean that Correa will project more favorably going forward than Turner. The Dodgers may also have interest in Correa due to his track record in the playoffs. After 334 trips to the plate during the postseason, Correa has posted identical marks of 130 wRC+ in both regular and postseason play, whereas Turner has managed a wRC+ of just 62 across his 197 postseason plate appearances.
Despite all these points in Correa’s favor, the comparison between him and Turner is far from cut-and-dry. While defensive metrics have significantly favored Correa in the past, they’ve soured on him in 2022, with OAA in particular strongly preferring Turner to Correa this past season. Turner is also among the best baserunners in the league, having swiped 230 bases in his career, including 27 in 2022. Correa, meanwhile, was caught stealing in his only 2022 attempt, and has rated negatively according to Fangraphs’s baserunning metric in each of the past three years.
Additionally, while Turner is a year older than Correa, he’s also been far more reliable in terms of staying on the field throughout his career. Turner has made just two trips to the injured list since the start of the 2018 season, while Correa had that many stints on the IL in 2022 alone. 2017 represents the only year of Turner’s career where he spent significant time on the IL, whereas Correa has spent significant time on the IL in 2017 and 2019 in addition to shorter stints each of the past two seasons. Even in a mostly healthy 2022 season, Correa took 118 less trips to the plate than Turner, whose 708 plate appearances were tied for second in all of baseball this season.
Correa and Turner aren’t the only options for the Dodgers this offseason, however. Of course, Dansby Swanson and Xander Bogaerts are expected to join Correa and Turner at the top of the free agent shortstop class this offseason, so it’s also feasible the Dodgers could explore signing either of them. Ardaya suggests that LA could look to utilize their farm system depth to explore the trade market in search of their new shortstop, and mentions Milwaukee’s Willy Adames as a possibility. Speculatively speaking, swinging a trade for a lower-cost option at shortstop could leave payroll space open for a potential pursuit of Aaron Judge, who the Dodgers have previously been reported to have interest in.