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Dodgers: 2020 Payroll Outlook As The Off-Season Begins

There should be plenty of money to sign an elite free agent

Dodgers All-Stars Cody Bellinger and Clayton Kershaw win the 7th annual Kershaw's Challenge Ping Pong 4 Purpose tournament at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, August 8, 2019.

As we are all still recovering from the early Dodgers playoff exit to end the 2019 season it is also time to start looking forward. The new free agency class is headed by Anthony Rendon and Gerrit Cole and they won’t come cheap.

There could also be some interesting trade targets now that the Dodgers have some salary room. The Dodgers seem to operate on the concept of avoiding the luxury tax if they can because of “real inside baseball economic stuff“. We’ll discuss the basis for the luxury tax then go into details to look at the amount available to avoid different tax consequences.

The Luxury Tax

This summary is extracted from our Payroll Page:

  • The thresholds for being taxed for the duration of the CBA are:
    • 2020: $208 million
    • 2021: $210 million
  • There are various penalties for exceeding the CBT that begin at 20%. The number changes based on the number of consecutive years the threshold is exceeded.
  • The penalties reset when a team stays under the threshold.
  • A team that exceeds the threshold by $40 million or more are penalized in the draft. A team not in the top 6 of the draft will have their first pick moved back 10 spots.
  • Penalties are calculated based on the Average Annual Value (AAV) of a multi-year contract.

To sum it up the Dodgers will have financial penalties if they exceed $208 million in 2020 and would have a draft pick penalty if they exceed $248 million.

Guaranteed 2020 Salaries

The players below have signed multi-year contracts and are guaranteed certain amounts of money. What we are doing in this article is using the average of their contract over the years. Some contracts pay more money in different years.

Player 2020 AAV
Jansen, Kenley $16,000,000
Kelly, Joe $8,333,333
Kershaw, Clayton $31,000,000
Maeda, Kenta $3,125,000
AJ Pollock $12,000,000
Turner, Justin $16,000,000
Total $86,458,333

The pending free agents are not listed. The free agents are David Freese (retired), Jedd Gyorko (they will buy his option out), Rich Hill, Russell Martin and Hyun-Jin Ryu. I would expect the Dodgers to consider some of these guys so any money spent on them would be factored into what is available to spend on other players.

Projected Arbitration Salaries

The numbers below for the 12 possible arbitration players were gathered from MLB Trade Rumors and their projections.

Player 2020
Baez, Pedro $3,300,000
Alexander, Scott $1,000,000
Barnes, Austin $1,300,000
Bellinger, Cody $11,600,000
Garcia, Yimi $1,100,000
Hernandez, Kiké $5,500,000
Muncy, Max $4,600,000
Pederson, Joc $8,500,000
Seager, Corey $7,100,000
Stripling, Ross $2,300,000
Taylor, Chris $5,000,000
Urías, Julio $1,700,000
Total $53,000,000

Pre-Arbitration Salaries and Other Luxury Tax Factors

The rest of the players are at the mercy of the Dodgers for their salary. Those players will make between $550K and $600K. For that group we’ll use a total of $4.6M. Then there are players on the 40 man roster that will be in the minors. For that group we’ll factor in a total of $2.25M. Player benefits are also part of the luxury tax calculation and we’ll use $15M.

The Totals

Guaranteed $86,458,333
Arbitration $53,000,000
Club Control $4,600,000
40 Man Minors $2,250,000
Player Benefits $15,000,000
Total $161,308,333
CBA Tax Threshold $208,000,000
Amount Under Threshold $46,691,667
Draft Pick Penalty $248,000,000
Amount Under Pick Penalty $86,691,667

With all the money that is almost guaranteed to be allocated the Dodgers have almost $47M before the smaller luxury tax penalties and almost $87M before the drastic penalties.

There are some other factors that could raise or lower those amounts. In 2019 the Dodgers paid out almost $8M total to Kenta Maeda and Clayton Kershaw in incentives. I would expect something similar again. Another factor is if they decide to move one of the bigger guaranteed contracts by adding some prospects to entice another team to take that contract.

For the sake of argument let’s put the final total at being $40M under the beginning of the luxury tax and $80M under the harshest penalties. This assumes the Dodgers give themselves some room to add money at the trade deadline and room for the Kershaw and Maeda incentives.

Possible Impacts to the 2020 Season

The Dodgers have taken a lot of heat for their seemingly insistence on staying under the tax threshold.

I know it has been a source of frustration for many of us as we know they have one of the largest markets with plenty of sources of revenue.

There is money, folks. Something to keep in mind, even though Dodgers were close to the luxury tax last spring they were actively making a play to add Bryce Harper at $35-40M per year for 4 years. That would have put them way over the tax so we know they will do it if they feel the right player is available.

Is Gerrit Cole or Anthony Rendon one of those players that would make the front office do something like pay the luxury tax? For both 2021 and 2022 there are more contracts coming off of the books like Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen. They will also need to pay players like Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler.

Final Thoughts

As the poll stated at the beginning, 58% of the voters do not expect the Dodgers to make a major effort to sign Rendon or Cole. The fans are tired of hearing about luxury taxes and limiting payroll. The number of excuses for not winning a World Series in the 7th full season of this ownership group is no longer something that is considered acceptable.

The tradition of excellence continues with the Dodger greats of today. We are committed to building the next dynasty and strengthening Dodger pride. – Dodgers Ownership Statement from May 2, 2012

The quick exit from the 2019 playoffs should be a wake up call to Andrew Friedman and Stan Kasten. I don’t expect them to spend “stupid money” but I also don’t expect them to worry so much about crossing the luxury tax threshold. This will be a very interesting off-season, that is for sure.

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

24 Comments

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  1. I don’t think they will go after Cole or Rendon, however if Strasburg opts-out i could see them trying to get him knowing Kersh is coming to an end.

      • I had coffee w a.player from the Nats a few months back and he said that he and many other players ( including Strasburg) have great respect for the Dodgers and wouldn’t mind playing for them. So you can say what you want about Roberts et al, but it’s just your opinion, and not true among those that know better than us.

        • You’re a liar Daniel what a ridiculous claim that you of all people had coffee with mlb players

        • Most of all the fans who follow the Dodgers i would bet would say the same things about Roberts. If ya paid attention to this year’s early exit from the PS you would know a bit better why. But I can also tell ya that based upon what many have seen this year in how Roberts poorly managed the pitching staff and lineups I am not so sure players actually feel the way you claim they do.

  2. If it’s another offseason of cheap pickups and not improving on glaring weaknesses then fans need to stop going and paying these disgusting prices. It would send a message especially in their big renovation year

  3. Whatever the Dodger Brass decide to do let’s hope it isn’t another Pollock. Ofer 13 with 10 Ks is a zero no matter how one tries to analyze it. Choosing Darvish over Verlander also seems to have been a big loser. Can anyone match Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin beside the Astros and maybe the Mets( before free agency)? Is there redundancy between Taylor and Hernandez and could the Mets use one as part of a trade for one on their pitchers? Decisions others will be making but the track record of late has not been what one could call very successful ( e.g. Reddick, Pollock, Darvish, Kelly or a few other non keepers of a year and to earlier than these) )

  4. I don’t think any of the Dodger players or Managers and coaches should get raises. It’s always been said “We win as a team and we lose as a team” so none of them deserve a raise. Yes, I understand that they won more games this year than they have since a hundred years ago but if you think about it back then they didn’t have all the technology they have now. Teams are up on almost every player and team. Better coaching, balls, and bats are better. Players are stronger than then. I still think many of these players play to a certain potential then taper off. They made their quota. They feel they won’t be making that much more to make it to the playoffs. The incentives are good enough for them. Many of them get these big heads that they’re better than what they’re getting and want to be told and told that they’ll get much more money at the end. BUT! The fans have had enough. Yes, it’s great to see them win games during the season but we get tired of seeing them stop playing at the end. I say forget all this payout, let go a few guys and get fresh blood mainly from the farm, let them grow into the team during the season. Save a bundle of money and pass it on to the fans, this way more will still get to games and more will buy your items.

  5. That the Dodgers made a run at Harper last off-season is a complete joke. He and his agent said, with conviction and often, Harper was looking for a long-term deal so he would finish his career with one team. That pretty much translated into a 10-year deal. So, to make it seem like the Dodgers were willing to go “all in” on Harper, they offered less than half the number of years, albeit for more per-year money than he eventually signed for. Harper wasn’t in it for a few million dollars more, but for the long-term deal (and he’s still getting a boatload of cash that will allow his family–probably including great, great grandchildern–to live a pretty ckmfortable life. That the Dodgers made a realistic offier is a crock of crap, so please stop saying they did.

    My guess is they will spend some money on mid-tier players in the range of 2-3 years for $10-$15 million per year…A.J. Pollack anyone?…and tell us they need future cash for Bellinger, Walker, Urias, and Seager. But more importantly, they need to stay under the tax level. Sounds like Tampa Bay Rays logic to me.

    • Are you seriously sorry they did not sign Harper? Alex Verdugo performed better — and cost less than 2 percent of Harper’s salary.

  6. First thing is that Freidman must get a better clue as to the status of this current that everyone of us KNOWS is not and will not be good enough to win those 11 games in October:
    “• Friedman said he believes the Dodgers have a championship bullpen.

    “I feel like the one-through-eight and the different looks and the length and the way different guys could match up against different types of hitters, I do feel like it was a bullpen that was capable of winning a World Series,” he said.

    • Friedman said the front office needs to be open to changing the complexion of the roster, even though he’s convinced it is anchored by a talented core of players.

    • Reacting to suggestions the front office can predetermine the moves made during a game, Friedman insisted that “you can’t possibly script out a baseball game.”

  7. Dodgers need to sign both Cole and Rendon. There are no excuses with the amount of money this ownership group makes.

  8. Yes we should make a splash. We need a solid lock down reliever. That should be #1. But we cannot let May or Gonsolin go. May showed some real flashes of his future. Gonsolin was solid. Trade an outfielder. Pederson has a lot of value to the right team. Or. Hit the free agent market. Will Smith is a solid FA pitcher from SF. And Madison Bum. Reliever + Starter. Both solid.

  9. The Dodgers could free up about $9,000,000 by reopening talks with the Chicago White Sox for Joc Pederson.
    The only off limit minor league players for the White Sox would be Luis Roberts & Nick Madigral.

  10. why do you say Dodgers have only 40 million to spend Spotrac web site say over 90 million before 208 million thrust hold? Are you that far off I believe they are the experts

  11. It’s Kasten’s Team and Business Plan. Friedman implements the Business Plan.
    The Dodger History so far is to resign players if that player fits in the Clubhouse. I believe because of this they will take a hard run at Ryu. With Ruiz and Wong a year or more away and Freese retiring they will probably sign Martin. Martin is an experienced catcher and great clubhouse presence for the youngsters.
    May, Gonsolin, Stripling, Ferguson and others will compete to be in the starting rotation with Kershaw, Buehler, Maeda, Urias. Friedman stated recently they see Maeda in the rotation. But I like May we shall see.
    The Rookies of 2019 Matt Beatty will have a spot on the roster as will Lux, Verdugo and Smith. Do they give Rios, Peters, Garland a shot?
    I pray they trade Taylor he is a strikeout waiting to happen with RISP. Hoping Seager has a consistent year he was not himself this year.
    I would trade Pollock. They will probably keep Pederson as he showed amazing power and has consistently hit well in the playoffs.
    On the Farm. Grey, White, Estevez and Downs continue to progress. Jared Kendall was much improved in making contact with the baseball. He could progress to AA or AAA by end of next year. If he can hit he is an amazing athlete.
    I do not believe the Dodgers will ever win the WS with Roberts as Manager. He is too concerned about staying friends with the players rather than making hard decisions. And his pitching and batter substitution have both been very questionable.

  12. ERNIE CROSBY: The Dodger brass are stuck with an incompetent manager in Dave Roberts. He possesses an uncanny ability for reacting and making the wrong decision hastily. Friedman needs to trade or unload AJ Pollock as he represents a serious mistake and problem if he ever dons a Dodger uniform. Poor Kersh has become a batting practice pitcher. The obvious reality cannot be ignored.Seager needs to have his hitting approach at the plate taken apart as he appears weak and results are disappointing. Let’s get a shortstop who can run and hit with authority.

  13. Correct on your last 3 sentences here. IMHO they are still short on impact RHB. and with several players not having the best splits, that is what leads to the constant lineup shuffling.

  14. The Dodgers have given KERSHAW a 3 year contract worth 90 million dollars . He is a pitcher that has not been the same since his back injury 2 years ago . He used fan sympathy and loyalty to get this contract . He can’t throw the his fastball more than 91 mph and his curve ball registers at 88 mph so hitters sit on one or both. I love KERSHAW but his time has come and gone. During the season teams would get to him in the first or second innings hitting home runs , then the team would bail him out with a big inning either in the same inning or later in the game . The playoffs and World series proved my case. Unless he visits the fountain of youth his career is over , the only reason that the series was not over sooner was because of wins by Buehler and Ryu trade him if you can or use him as a pitching coach. But don’t use him again as a starting pitcher and definitely not as a reliever

  15. If the Dodgersfashion another season with 5-6 minor leaguers and 3-4 inept regulars, they can I’ll expect to no better than 2019.

  16. I have been a Dodger fan since 1958, yes 1958. The World Series drought for this storied franchise has gone on long enough. It’s time to make the moves, premier starter, an upgrade in the field with a clutch bat and a lock down reliever.

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