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Are The Dodgers Trying To Buy A World Series Championship?

The myth still lives.

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 08: Max Muncy #13 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at bat against the Oakland Athletics during the ninth inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 8, 2018 in Oakland, California. The Oakland Athletics defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)

One of the frequent criticisms of the Dodgers is that they are trying to buy a World Series. Many, including this writer, have wanted the Dodgers to spend more money on free agents or trade for a big contract. There is some history that would agree that the Dodgers have tried to buy a World Series. The huge Adrian Gonzalez trade along with signing Zack Greinke within a few months of each other fed into that narrative a few years ago. Even a book, “The Best Team Money Can Buy: The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse” by Molly Knight helped feed that narrative. This article will look how the team is currently constructed and how the Dodgers choose to spend their money.

Some History

Recovering from McCourt

Before the team was sold by Frank McCourt, the ownership was busy stripping the system of valuable resources. They weren’t investing much into their international spending and player development. The payroll was not in the range that a big city franchise like the Dodgers should spend. The last year of the McCourt reign of terror, the Dodgers were 12th in overall payroll spending in 2011 at almost $110M. There was also a noticeable dip in attendance as some fans started to boycott the stadium to try and force McCourt to sell.

Dodgers
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – APRIL 18: Julio Urias #7 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on April 18, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

In May of 2012 the Guggenheim Baseball Management group purchased the Dodgers out of bankruptcy and immediately went out to try and win the fans back. They traded for Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, all expensive players, within three months of purchasing the team. They also started spending some international money by signing Julio Urías and Yasiel Puig. By the end of 2013 they had a payroll of $237M (2nd in MLB) and had made the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Locking Up Your Franchise Player

After the 2013 season they Dodgers made their biggest player investment by signing Clayton Kershaw to a 7 year/$215M contract. This insured that their franchise player would stay with the Dodgers for a long time. Even through 2015 their payroll kept climbing as they traded some big contracts for cheaper players but they still paid some of the contracts of the players leaving. They also brought in some veteran players as placeholders for future Dodgers (see Jimmy Rollins and Corey Seager).

HIROSHIMA, JAPAN – NOVEMBER 13: Pitcher Kenta Maeda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws in the top of 1st inning during the game four between Japan and MLB All Stars at Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium Hiroshima on November 13, 2018 in Hiroshima, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)

A Shift Back To Normal

After the 2015 season there was a subtle shift as the Dodgers did not top the contract offer the Diamondbacks made to Zack Greinke. They also did not bid on free agent pitchers like Johnny Cueto and David Price. Instead they went for lower cost options like Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir. This has been a continued way the Dodgers have chosen to do business. However, they’ve generally spent well on their own free agents like Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner and Rich Hill. They’ve made some mistakes like offering Brett Anderson a Qualifying Offer (that he took) or some of their international free agents but have focused on homegrown talent.

Today’s Team

The current 25-man roster is littered with all kinds of experience and contracts but the eye openers are the number of homegrown players and their salaries. We’ll look at the roster focusing on if they are homegrown and how much they make. Many of the financial numbers comes from COTS and reflects the 25-man roster and key Injured List players as of this writing.

Players with a “*” next to their name are homegrown. Some players are under the minimum salary because they were either traded for or have spent a lot of time in the minors.

Starting Pitchers

* Ryu, Hyun-Jin

$17,900,000

* Kershaw, Clayton

$31,000,000

* Buehler, Walker

$570,000

* Maeda, Kenta

$6,025,000

* May, Dustin

$176,048

Total

$55,671,048

Until and if Rich Hill comes back the Dodgers will have a homegrown rotation. Both Ryu and Maeda did play in other professional leagues before becoming Dodgers but LA is their MLB original home. I’ve also included Maeda’s bonuses he’s earned so far this season. The Kershaw contract is what you give your franchise player and, frankly, he’s been worth his years of being over $30M per. Ryu is an absolute bargain and both Buehler and May are at or near league minimum.

Relief Pitchers

* Jansen, Kenley

$16,000,000

* Baez, Pedro

$2,100,000

Kelly, Joe

$8,333,333

* Urías, Julio

$565,000

Kolarek, Adam

$187,000

Chargois, JT

$421,417

* Ferguson, Caleb

$452,588

* Garcia, Yimi

$710,000

Total

$28,769,338

The bullpen is always a volatile area but the Dodgers still have five homegrown pitchers out of the eight. Joe Kelly is the only reliever the Dodgers went outside the organization to sign as a semi bit-time free agent. Jansen was signed to a 5 year/$80M contract after 2016 when he was a top 2-3 reliever. He’s slipped but sometimes it is good to keep your homegrown players. I wrote about the dangers of overspending on bullpens last year as some relievers can vary in performance from year to year.

Position Players

* Smith, Will

$274,576

** Martin, Russell

$0

* Bellinger, Cody

$605,000

Muncy, Max

$575,000

* Seager, Corey

$4,000,000

Turner, Justin

$16,000,000

* Beaty, Matt

$415,244

Pollock, AJ

$12,000,000

* Pederson, Joc

$5,000,000

Negrón, Kris

$188,333

* Rios, Edwin

$226,161

* Garlick, Kyle

$274,271

Total

$39,558,585

Of the 12 position players on the roster, 8 of them are homegrown. I gave Martin two * because he was originally a Dodger but has played for other MLB teams. Also, Martin has a salary of $0 because the Blue Jays paid off his contract. Pollock is the only big free agent expense and I contend they got him on a good deal at 5 years/$60M. The other free agents were guys released by their previous teams; Justin Turner and Max Muncy. Just about every player on this list is exceeding their salary value.

Injured List

Freese, David

$4,500,000

Gyorko, Jedd

-$955,710

Hernandez, Enrique

$3,725,000

Hill, Rich

$16,000,000

* Stripling, Ross

$595,000

Taylor, Chris

$3,500,000

* Verdugo, Alex

$560,000

Total

$27,924,290

Yes, that is a negative number for Gyorko’s salary as the Cardinals gave the Dodgers some money back in the trade to offset the contract. Even though he seems homegrown, Kiké Hernandez was acquired in a trade with the Marlins after 2014. Most of the players on this list will probably be on the post-season roster. My guess is that the playoff roster with max out at around $146M but if Rich Hill isn’t available then it goes down to $130M.

Are They Trying To Buy A Championship?

Of the current players on the 25-man roster, 18 of them are homegrown. The playoff roster will probably be around 15 home grown players with a salary between $130M and $146M. When you look at the Red Sox having a huge salary in 2018 of $239M and the Astros trading a ton of prospects for Zack Greinke, you’d think those teams would be accused of buying a championship. However, most of the sentiment seems to match this bad Bob Nightengale article. Here is an excerpt:

If the baseball gods truly want to be honorable …

The Houston Astros, who had the guts to trade away four prized prospects and the stomach to add $54 million worth of payroll for starter Zack Greinke, will become World Series champions.

What about the teams like the Cubs and Astros that introduced Major League Baseball to the concept of tanking? Now you have teams that are making tanking into a practice. Rarely do we hear complaints about those teams starting this trend but it is not good for baseball. The Dodgers developing and keeping their talent is something that is good for baseball.

Player Development Focus

However, more than ever the Dodgers are still accused of trying to buy a championship. That may have been valid through 2015 but it is no longer close to the truth. Yes, the Dodgers do spend plenty of their budget on salary but they have passed over many big money free agents and trades recently. How many of us clamored for keeping Greinke at any cost? What about wanting to trade for Giancarlo Stanton? Or signing Bryce Harper or re-signing Manny Machado. If money were no object, one or more of those players would be on the Dodgers right now. Instead, some of the money is put into player development, the draft and international players.

How many players seemingly come out of the blue and become significant contributors to the Dodgers. Gavin Lux, Will Smith and Dustin May were drafted significantly higher than the experts said they should be drafted. What about players such as Chris Taylor and Max Muncy who were minor league and 4-A wash ups? Who ever heard of Matt Beaty? Caleb Ferguson was drafted in the 38th round. Only Dodger prospect junkies knew about most of those players. These are players that will most likely play important roles either now or in the future.

Final Thoughts

Us fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers are hungry for a World Series. Some of us want to do it at any cost and there is nothing wrong with that point of view. For me, I enjoy following the players in the system as they make their way through the minors. As a fan I would rather watch players such as Corey Seager or Cody Bellinger make it up to the Dodgers than trade them for a player that might help the team win a World Series. The Dodgers are constructed to contend for many years and I’m pretty sure they will get at least one championship by 2021. When they do win these championships it will be with players we know and have followed for quite a while.

Written by Tim Rogers

A fan of the Dodgers since 1973 since I got my first baseball cards while living in Long Beach. I came to San Diego for college and never left nor did I ever switch my Dodgers' allegiance. Some know me as the "sweater guy". #ProspectHugger

9 Comments

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  1. HI Tim,
    Great analysis and I agree, if the Dodgers were trying to buy a WS we’d be cheering (jeering) Brice Harper or Machado. The questions I’m keep wondering about are; what does the FO do about Ryu and will Jansen walk? What about a look at those situations?

  2. Kind of strange you never brought up the Yankees,this should be there headline or mantra.they try and get every free agent available and trade for every big name vs the dodgers whose predominantly homegrown young talent.

  3. Just ran into a Giants fan, what else, here in Portland Oregon the other day while I was watching a Dodgers! on my computer at Starbucks. She asked me what I was watching and I told her that Dodgers, she said oh I hate the Dodgers, I said why, her answer “Well, they have all that money”. I went on to explain to her almost exactly what you have here in the article, but added that the Dodgers have a long history of having an deep farm system (only during the McCourt era have we been out of the top 10, and usually in the top 5 – pulls that one out of the old you know what, but I knew I was close-:) The Giants on the other hand use to have the same, but haven’t in quite some time and wow are they now. I also explained to her that the Giants have plenty of money and have spent it plenty over the years too. Just had to get that one in.

    I’m not a Giants hatter, can’t be half my family are Dodgers fans (Dad was from Brooklyn) the other half are Giants fans (Mom was a Giants fan). Family get together’s are a hoot! I just can’t stand ignoring all matters baseball especially when it comes to my Dodgers!!

    A Dodgers fan since 1963! One of the Years we won it all!

    VOH

  4. Great article. I guarantee these idiots out there are aware of everything in this article but they either like or get paid to be anti Dodger even if it means looking like a complete hypocrite

  5. Every team with the money is trying to buy a WS championship, so what? It’s long past time that we did.

  6. Been a Dodger fan since the tickets at the pavilion were $3.50 thats 3 dollars and 50 cents we’re talking about the mid 80s ive been living in Phoenix Arizona since 1992 but i bleed Dodger blue its amazing how many Dbacks fans hate the Dodgers maybe its because when the Dodgers are in town more than half of the fans are Dodger fans but mostly i just think they’re jealous if the Dodger tradition from Vin Scully to Koufax to Jackie to Fernando to Duke Snyder i could.on and on and dont forget Tommy Lasorda

  7. Honestly, dodgers trying to buy a championship. Why dont you go back to where the marlyns really bought a championship then at the off season got rid of all the roster. Dodgers have almost have home grown players through out the decades, and when they go out to get an expensive player to put us over the top to win a championship we get burn. Players like machado, kemp, darvish, eric davis way back. Dodgers have always had a great farm system, and even behind the scenes they have traded top farm system prospects. Dodgers grow and make top players, and we will see the a big problem with our players negotiating big contracts in the next couple of years especially if we do not win a world series.

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