2021 MLB playoffs: Three questions for Los Angeles Dodgers as World Series title defense ends in defeat

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ATLANTA -- The Los Angeles Dodgers' starting-pitching depth was the envy of the sport when the 2021 season began.

By the end, it wasn't nearly enough.

Clayton Kershaw was hurt, David Price became a non-factor, Tony Gonsolin proved ineffective, Dustin May required surgery and Trevor Bauer left the team amid a criminal investigation. When October came, the Dodgers needed Julio Urias to remain flexible, Walker Buehler to pitch on short rest and Max Scherzer to contribute out of the bullpen. And ultimately it all caught up to them.

Their quest to become baseball's first repeat champion in more than 20 years ended in six National League Championship Series contests to an Atlanta Braves team that won 18 fewer regular-season games. The final loss -- by a 4-2 score from Truist Park on Saturday night -- went to Buehler, who started on short rest for the second time this postseason because Scherzer's arm still hadn't recovered from pitching the ninth inning of the deciding game in the prior round.

The Dodgers, with a major league-high payroll that neared $270 million, won 106 regular-season games and led the sport in run-differential. They walked off the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Wild Card Game and outlasted the division-rival San Francisco Giants in the NL Division Series, but they fell short against the surging Braves in an NLCS that saw Justin Turner join Max Muncy among the injured position players.

Now, suddenly, they will encounter one of their most uncertain offseasons in recent memory.

"The six years I've been here, it's been a core group of guys that potentially could be turned over this winter," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "I'm not looking forward to it."

Below is a look through what lies ahead.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Notable free agents: SP Max Scherzer, SP Clayton Kershaw, CL Kenley Jansen, SS Corey Seager, UT Chris Taylor, 1B Albert Pujols, RP Corey Knebel, RP Joe Kelly (club option)

We know what you're thinking: That is quite the list. At least three Hall of Famers reside on it, very possibly four, and in a few years we might be saying five. This is a list representative of the turnover the Dodgers potentially face with their roster and the litany of tough decisions they'll encounter over the winter.

Trade candidates: CF/1B Cody Bellinger