We already knew the Dodgers weren’t in on Manny Machado in free agency because it’s not a great in the long run. But maybe they’d be in on the other top free agent, Bryce Harper, to boost their offense and secure one of the biggest stars in baseball for the next decade. With the latest news out of Los Angeles though, that seems unlikely as well.
According to The LA Times’ Bill Shaikin the Dodgers are planning on staying under the luxury tax threshold for the next four seasons. THE NEXT FOUR SEASONS. This isn’t about resetting their tax penalty, since they already did that this season and would be paying the lowest penalty next year if they went over, and mimics the Yankees also saying they’re attempting to remain under the threshold after re-setting this year. The luxury tax limits for the next four years are as follows.
2019 — $206
2020 — $208 million
2021 — $210 million
2022 — TBD
The Dodgers have won the NL West six times in a row and made the World Series the last two year, losing both times, and did so in 2018 with a total payroll of $195 million. Teams can compete without going over the threshold, it’s not impossible, but it’s another sign that teams across the league are not opting to spend money to make themselves contenders despite the Red Sox winning a championship this season with the highest payroll in baseball.
This means two possible things for the Dodgers. One, that ownership is okay not contending at the same level as previous years or at least is taking the risk that lowering their payroll will also lower their chances of winning a Series. With the rest of the league backing off the “paying players” strategy as well it’s not like a $200 million payroll won’t be able to stack up against the competition.
But announcing that plan publicly is sending a message that they’re taking the keys out of the ignition of the money truck for just a bit, and other teams might be able to take advantage of that. President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman addressed any level of competition concerns in a recent presser, saying,
“... there’s no question that we have plenty of resources to win a World Series next year. There’s no question about that. The talent on hand, and the flexibility to do that, is definitely there.”
The other possibility is that this is a public announcement made to appease investors, and that the front office has an inkling that they can secure some cash flow by promising cut backs in certain areas, then when things are more stable in a season or two go back on that and make a big splash on the free agency market. The team has lost significant amounts of money on paper during this first stretch of the Guggenheim ownership group’s reign, and this is in line with their initial plan when they bought the team.
To spend money early, and then pare things back to a more reasonable level as they became competitive and had a more stabilized minor league system. While not a bad idea for a bunch of businessmen, it also isn’t one that exhibits the most confidence in the team striking when the iron is hot AKA when they still have an effective Clayton Kershaw and a young lineup that can be incredibly dangerous offensively. But I’m not a billionaire sports owner, so.
Either way, this is part of the larger trend of teams realizing they don’t have to break the bank year-in and year-out to reach the upper echelon of the league and possibly win a championship. Maybe it will work out for the teams that have decided they can be contenders without acquiring the most expensive players out there, or maybe teams who continue to do the opposite (like the Red Sox) are just licking their lips right now knowing their top competitors are backing off a little bit from making an effort.