While some will look at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ payroll as being incredibly ridiculous, it would be wise to remember that the team isn’t exactly just handing out expensive contracts anymore.

According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Dodgers have $226,321,668 committed to player salaries for 2016. Last season, the Dodgers were at $301,735,080. Essentially, the team cut roughly $75 million right off the top.

Either way, the Dodgers led baseball in salary last season, and it looks like they will be doing so again. However, that shouldn’t undersell what they’re doing.

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We’re entering the second season of the Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi partnership, and that means costs are getting slashed.

Don’t believe it? Well, let Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times explain it:

On Jan. 15, 2014, the Dodgers signed Kershaw to a $215-million contract extension.

Since then, 14 players have signed contracts worth at least $100 million, with 12 teams. The Dodgers did not sign any of those players.

One of the prevailing thoughts under Friedman is to stockpile young, cost controlled talent for as many years as possible, and then let them grow as a unit in order to have sustained long-term success. It’s the model he employed in Tampa Bay with the Rays, and it’s exactly what he plans on doing with the Dodgers.

The difference between the Rays and the Dodgers, though, is that one team lacked the fiscal model to actually improve via free agency and the other, well, can spend money when they need to. The latter is the Dodgers, and that’s exactly what Friedman and Zaidi are doing.

While they didn’t spend the $206.5 million that it took to sign Zack Greinke, the team did spend $73 million in total guaranteed money to acquire two pitchers to help ease the burden. Even if Kenta Maeda reaches all of his incentives, the Dodgers would be paying just $138.2 million total between him and Scott Kazmir. That’s $68.3 million less than what’s being paid to Greinke.

With tons more money coming off the books after the 2017 and 2018 seasons, don’t be surprised to see the Dodgers actually continue cutting costs in the near future.

When might they actually start spending a ton of money again? That 2018 offseason.

Who will possibly be free agents, you ask? Bryce Harper, Jose Fernandez, Josh Donaldson, Andrew McCutchen, Manny Machado, Jason Heyward, Matt Harvey, Dallas Keuchel, and the Dodgers’ own Clayton Kershaw.

It’s possible the money is being shed for that one offseason. But, if there’s one thing for certain, the Dodgers aren’t spending as crazily as they used to. Then again, they might do so again in a few years.

NEXT: Team Patiently Waiting For Kendrick To Sign Elsewhere

About The Author

Justin Russo is a 30-year old sports enthusiast who dabbles in all forms of sports talk. Whether that talk revolves around the NBA, NCAA, NFL, NHL, MLB, or other leagues, he has an opinion. He works as a writer for Warriors World, and was formerly a writer and editor for ClipsNation on the SB Nation network. He also is the Editor-in-chief for But The Game Is On: The Beat.

3 Responses

  1. Blue58

    I think Friedman sold himself to the Guggenheim group with the same line: that he has the expertise to field a competitive team on the cheap and that the team was overspending unnecessarily. While it is true that the Dodgers at this point figure to have a very low payroll in 2018, why do you think Friedman will then do something he’s never done in his career: sign a player to a six figure contract? (You can’t put Maeda in that category since he’s highly unlikely to meet all the incentives that would push his contract to the maximum.) 

    The expectation, for example, is that Harper will command a contract approaching $500 million, a half-billion dollars. There’s no way this Dodger team goes for that. My guess is they won’t even resign Kershaw on the grounds they won’t want to pay him the requisite $38 to $40 million a year into his 30s.

  2. JacksonEbner

    Blue58   Ridiculous comment IMO.  It’s not about being cheap, it’s about not wasting budget on declining players, and maintaining flexibility so you can strike when the right players become available.  Notice how much money they are spending on young international talent, while avoiding the predicament the Angels put themselves in by signing big name decliners, hitting the top of their budget, and then not being able to sign the one guy who can be a difference maker for them when they need it.  Its called being smart.  As a baseball fan, I want to see the Pujols, Hamiltons, Crawfords, etc., in their prime, not get tortured watching their skills decline year after year, while getting paid like a hall of famer, and taking up a spot on the team when a minimum wager could be just as productive with more upside.

  3. Blue58

    JacksonEbner Blue58 JacksonEbner, I agree the Dodgers should “strike when the right players are available,” but have limited confidence they will do that. I agree that the Angels giving Pujols a 10-year contract was folly and I’m not advocating those kinds of deals.

    I’m not saying that the Dodgers should pursue every big name free agent, but I am saying that their apparent determination to NEVER pursue such free agents is also folly.

    I think if they had signed Max Scherzer and Andrew Miller last winter, they would have had a more successful season in 2015 and would be better positioned to contend this season and into the future. This off season, I think they were right to pass on the big names, except Greinke. I believe Greinke will pitch well into his late 30s, like Maddox, but I acknowledge that’s no sure thing and the D-backs contract is risky. 

    There are many ways to waste money in baseball. Signing aging players to long term contracts is one way. So is giving Brandon McCathy $48 million for four years; so is engaging in a furious bidding war for Hector Olivera and then eating his $30 million bonus in a trade for marginal players; so is paying off Michael Morse’s $9 million dollar contract and giving him to another team as part of the price for bringing in Matt Latos; so is paying Dee Gordon’s salary while he wins the battling and stolen base titles for another team.

    After the 2018 season Kershaw will be 30 years old. If he opts out, he probably will seek a six or seven year contract in the neighborhood of $220-$280 million. If Friedman is still running the team at that point, his rule of not giving long term deals that extend into a player’s late 30s will be put to the ultimate test. Would that met your criteria of striking “while the right players are available” because if the Dodgers refuse to pay Kershaw some other team will and like Pedro Martinez and Mike Piazza, he might go into the Hall of Fame wearing another team’s cap. 

    Bryce Harper will be 26 in that same offseason and may very well ask for a 10 year or even 12 year contract. The Yankees or some other team will pay him that if the Dodgers don’t. 

    Players have figured out that the market declines after age 33 or 34, so the best ones are looking for contracts that take them beyond that. If the Dodgers continue to say “never” to such contracts they will not remain competitive. No matter how successful their minor league system is, they can’t fill every need from within. The Cubs this year gave questionable contracts to Zobrist and Lackey, but they did it because Epstein wants to win this year and next. Sometimes you have to extend beyond your comfort zone in order to win.

    As I have written here before, I admire what Friedman has done with the farm system and with the international market. I have concerns about his reluctance to commit to any big contracts and, more worrisome, his so far rather poor judge of talent.


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