The Dodgers are coming off a disappointing postseason that saw their bullpen implode and their bats disappear. It was their first time not advancing past the NLDS since 2015, and it was especially disappointing as it came after a regular season in which the club achieved a franchise record in wins.
Many fans and some analysts have pointed to the Dodgers’ lack of risk-taking when it comes to signing free agents and making trades as a reason for the team’s now-infamous October blues. They feel that the Dodgers have played it too safe on the market, and as a result, are not getting over the hump to capture that elusive World Series title.
This has given the Dodgers a reputation of being cheap, a term which Kasten took offense to when discussing the off-season on MLB Network Radio on Sunday.
— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) December 8, 2019
“What is this Jedi mind-trick (Friedman) has with you in the media?” Kasten said. “We’ve led baseball in payroll for his five years in Los Angeles, and all of you insist ‘the guy is cheap and never spends any money.’ This really annoys the heck out of me.”
Kasten points out that the Dodgers have been spending money, in fact for the past few years they have spent what he estimated to be around $20 million above the MLB Competitive Balance Tax, just in ways that he calls “tax-advantaged.” Kasten estimated his team’s payroll to be around the $200 million mark.
“You can criticize our moves, you can criticize our judgement. That’s all fair,” Kasten said. “But when teams with $60 and $80 million payrolls like Tampa and Oakland make the postseason, I don’t think you can criticize us if we’re around $200 million.”
In regards to areas of concern for the Dodgers, Kasten believes that they can always be looking to improve in all areas of the game. Going into winter meetings, Kasten maintained that the club will focus on deals that will not only make the Dodgers better but keep them better in future years.
“Just winning the off-season — winning the winter meetings — that’s not a factor,” he said. “Making the team better is a factor. Making it better in a way that keeps us better for the long haul with all the many considerations that go into that kind of judgment, that’s what we focus on. That’s what we will focus on all this week, and all the rest of the winter.”
It seems Kasten is taking the defensive route again in the tonality of his response. Last winter when an unfavorable (but fair) article was published by the LA Times about the team’s perception of not spending money, the team president clapped back at the media before hiding behind the forever memorable “real inside-baseball economic stuff” quote when asked for elaboration.
Yes, the Dodgers are spending money when it comes down the bottom line — or what their final payroll totals say after the season. However, the question can be asked: is it the right money? In each season since Friedman has come on board with Los Angeles, team spending has been at or near the top of the league — as Kasten says — but a large portion of that cash is being spent on players no longer on the team.
In 2019 alone, the club spent over $40M alone on Homer Bailey ($23M; released after Yasiel Puig/Reds trade), Matt Kemp x2 ($7M to CIN, $3.5M to SD), Hector Olivera ($4.6M; traded to ATL in 2015) and Yaisel Sierra ($5M; the only player still technically in the organization) — or more simply said, players not on the 40-man roster.
What Jedi mind-tricks are you trying to play, Stan?