Dodgers' Dave Roberts, Clayton Kershaw discuss futures

ByAlden Gonzalez ESPN logo
Monday, October 29, 2018

LOS ANGELES -- Dave Roberts addressed his players for the final time on Sunday night, moments after the Los Angeles Dodgers suffered a season-ending 5-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox in Game 5 of the World Series.

He told them how proud he was and how fortunate he was to be their manager. And then he singled out Clayton Kershaw, to make sure he knew how much he meant to the organization, just in case he would no longer be part of it.

"Whatever decision he makes, that is with him and his family," Roberts said in a news conference afterward. "But for me, to be on his team for three years, I've learned a tremendous amount from him, and I'll take that going forward. This one hurts for him. This one hurts for all of us."

The Dodgers, the first team since the 2010 and 2011 Texas Rangers to lose back-to-back World Series, face two key questions in the coming days, centered on their manager and their ace.

The Dodgers' brass never picked up Roberts' option for 2019, which technically means he doesn't currently have a contract. Kershaw, meanwhile, has three days to decide whether to opt out of his own contract, one that would pay him $65 million over the next two years.

"I haven't made the decision yet," said Kershaw, who was tagged with the loss after giving up four runs in seven innings. "We have three days to talk, between us and the Dodgers, see what happens. And then we'll go from there."

Said Roberts, who just finished his third season with the organization: "My plan is to manage the Dodgers."

"I love the city, I love the organization, everything it's about," he added. "And I love the high expectations. And that's the way it should be. I can always get better."

The Dodgers have seven players eligible for free agency, including starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, catcher Yasmani Grandal, second baseman Brian Dozier, relief pitcher Ryan Madson and, most notably, shortstop Manny Machado.

Corey Seager, who spent most of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery, will be ready to return to shortstop next year, making Machado's return appear unlikely. The four-time All-Star said he "couldn't be more thankful" for his three-month stint with the Dodgers, but he wasn't ready to talk about his looming free agency.

"We just lost," Machado said. "I can't even think about that."

Chase Utley is now heading into retirement, which he said he is "looking forward to." The Dodgers also have to make a decision on their $6 million option for corner infielder David Freese, an important clubhouse presence who stepped up for the team in October.

Soon, Kenley Jansen will undergo heart surgery. The Dodgers' closer spent more than a week away from the team in August to address a recurrence of atrial fibrillation and said then that another invasive procedure was expected this offseason.

"That's going to be next month," Jansen said. "Probably at some time, I'm going to be shut down from working out. We'll figure that out. I'm going to really clean my diet up to really kind of help me with what I want to accomplish in the offseason and recover from the surgery."

Kershaw, still chasing his first World Series trophy and still fighting the narrative that he isn't a good postseason pitcher, was "disappointed" in the outcome but "proud" to be on a team that made it all the way to the final round twice in a row.

Kershaw is arguably the greatest pitcher of his era, with three Cy Young Awards, an MVP trophy and a 2.39 ERA in 2,096 regular-season innings. But he will turn 31 in March, has spent parts of the past three seasons on the disabled list with a back injury and now throws a fastball that hovers in the low 90s, circumstances that hurt his market value and might ultimately impact his decision to opt out.

"Clayton is the Dodgers," fellow Dodgers starter Rich Hill said. "He's the heart and soul of this organization. When you look at a guy like that, who has put it on the line for so many years and had so much success here, as a Dodger -- I just hope that they do the right thing."

Roberts led the Dodgers to 87 more regular-season wins than losses from 2016 to 2018, a three-year stretch capped by back-to-back National League pennants. His unique blend of leadership, feel and analytical acumen have made him among the game's most respected managers. But he failed to deliver the franchise's first championship in 30 years.

On Sunday, the final home game of the season, Roberts was booed by the Dodger Stadium fans during pregame introductions, a response triggered mostly by his decision to remove Hill too early in a heartbreaking Game 4 loss.

Jansen felt the criticism aimed at Roberts in recent days was "unfair."

"Doc did a tremendous job this year," Jansen said, alluding to all the adversity the Dodgers faced throughout the summer. "There's a lot of great things that he did this season to get us here."

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