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The Dodgers World Series title Tuesday night closed the book on a championship chase that lasted for more than three decades. The next volume of their story is where the intrigue now lays.
On Tuesday night, the Dodgers hadn’t begun thinking that far ahead. They wanted to savor the moment, appreciate this year’s team on their climatic day.
“I've been on some great teams, but this team was really, really special,” Clayton Kershaw said. “All the way through. Every faction of our team. Offense, defense, starters, bullpen, there have been so many amazing people, talent, guys that play their roles so well.”
He added, “This is the best team I've ever been a part of. We won the World Series. Best team I've ever been on.”
It’s possible the next few years might be the same way, with most of the team’s championship core seemingly cemented in place.
Consider the Dodgers’ contracts: Of the nine starters in the team’s Game 6 lineup Tuesday, Justin Turner is the lone free agent this winter, joining Kiké Hernández and Joc Pederson as the only three position players on the World Series roster now with expired contracts.
Corey Seager and Chris Taylor are signed through 2021. Everyone else is tied to the Dodgers through at least 2022, with Mookie Betts (2032), Will Smith (2026), Cody Bellinger (2024) locked down even longer.
The team’s entire starting rotation not only will be back next season, but should get a boost from the return of David Price after he opted out this year. The bullpen could lose free agents Blake Treinen, Pedro Báez, Alex Wood and Jake McGee — the first three of whom pitched important innings in the Dodgers’ final two World Series wins — but the team also discovered dependable young arms such as Brusdar Graterol and Victor González this October.
Several more young players appear to be on the verge of a big league breakthrough. Infielder Gavin Lux and catcher Keibert Ruiz chipped in during the Dodgers’ 43-17 regular season. Promising 22-year-old pitcher Josiah Gray spent the summer developing at the team’s alternate training site. And even with Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Edwin Ríos now considered full-time MLB players, the Dodgers’ farm system was ranked No. 11 in the majors by MLB Pipeline
“We’ve been through a lot of adversity in year’s past,” Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said. “For us to continue to try to figure out ways to improve and get better with what we were doing, I think speaks to the group that we have. For our young guys to get this experience this year really bodes well for us in the future.”
Hernández was asked prior to Tuesday’s game what made this Dodgers team different, why he and his teammates kept believing this was the year they’d finish their championship quest.
“Look at the trade deadline,” he said. “There were a lot of questions about a lot of teams, but there wasn’t really a lot of questions about what do the Dodgers need to get over the edge. That just tells you how complete, how deep we were and we are as a team, that we didn’t feel the need to go after somebody to get us over the hump.
“The years I’ve been here, there’s always been that question about, ‘What do they need? And what they don’t have.’ And this year, there wasn’t really that. We kind of have it all.”
It was no surprise that when 2021 MLB betting odds were released Tuesday night, the Dodgers were the clear early favorites, with odds almost twice as good as the next closest club, the New York Yankees, according to the Action Network.
Tuesday brought their first storybook ending in almost a generation. The Dodgers hope there are sequels to follow in its place.
“We had an unbelievable postseason,” said Seager, the World Series most valuable player. “Both sides of the field, we ran bases, we pitched, we played defense, we hit, we scored runs when we needed to. You can’t say enough about what we did this year.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.