Stop me if you've heard this one before, "The Dodgers are considered the front runners to sign Zack Greinke." Or was it Hiroki Kuroda? Or Anibal Sanchez? Or Kyuji Fujikawa? Or Kevin Youkilis? Or how about just every free agent ever?
It seems that no matter what position a player plays or how much money he wants, the Dodgers want him. Their greed and checking account are apparently bottomless, or so the rumor mongers in the media would have us believe. At some point, their has to be a cap on the LA's payroll, which is already at $198 million for 18 players and doesn't include the $26 million posting fee they'll pay if/when they sign Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu. Even the Evil Empire era Yankees had to curb their spending at a point. But where is that point for the Dodgers?
To put that in perspective, the highest payroll that any team in baseball has ever put out was just over $213 million by the Yankees back in 2010. They've since "tightened their belt" to get down to just under $210 million this last season and seem set on cutting back even more in 2013. And that's a team with in the biggest TV market in the country, their own TV network and a brand new state-of-the-art stadium. The Yankees basically have a license to print money, yet they can't quite seem to stomach going past the $215 million mark, a mark that the Dodgers are going to go screaming by based on what the rumor mill is saying.
The funny thing is that as much as everyone is rushing to label the Dodgers the "new Yankees," they overlook how unlike the Yankees the Dodgers are. Sure, they have the huge TV market, but their stadium, while iconic, is hardly the money-making machine that many other teams boast, though they are planning some renovations for next season. Moreover, the Dodgers do not own a TV network, in fact, they are currently in the last year of their old cable deal. Their new deal could be a financial windfall that nets them around $250 million or more per season though according to recent reports.
Those factors should free up the Dodgers to spend a ton of money, but tens of millions more than the Yankees? That's hard to say, especially since they are still recovering from the McCourt-induced attendance swoon. Of course, this assumes that the Dodgers are playing by the same set of rules as the Yankees. By that I mean looking to turn the same kind of profit and maintain the same kind of competitive level on a yearly basis. That would require the Dodgers to be operating with logic and restraint. Any body would think they have a secret supply of money, or somebody keeps getting lucky playing blackjack at Ladbrokes. Click here to try it out for yourself and you may win big too.
Based on the players they have been linked to, it appears that the Dodgers are not only unconcerned with their spending but they don't seem worried about normal roster constraints either. They have been linked to every top pitcher on the market, yet they already have six rotation members on their roster, seven if they add Ryu. There are some injury concerns with Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley, but as of right now both should be ready for Opening Day. The Dodgers even made a run at signing Torii Hunter despite already having Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford in their outfield. They just don't care. They want all the talent they can get their hands on and they don't care how much it costs.
Of course, that assumes the rumors are all valid. Based on reports, the Dodgers seem to be intent on adding at least one significant starting pitcher, a solid bat at either second or third, a high-end reliever and maybe a reserve outfielder to hold down the fort until Crawford is fully healthy. Conservatively, that should tack another $30 to $40 million onto their 2013 payroll. Even if they don't add all of those pieces, they are sure to round out the roster with a few more acquisitions, though they only realistically have just a few spots open on their active roster. Worst case scenario, the Dodgers add another $15 million in payroll by signing Ryu, a high quality bench bat or two and another solid reliever. All in all, the Dodgers' 2013 Opening Day payroll is going to come in somewhere between $220 million and $240 million, either way, it would be a record for the highest payroll ever.
That record may not last though as the Dodgers will have to consider more than just 2013 when they hand out deals this winter. Already they $142 million committed in 2014 to just nine players, not including Clayton Kershaw who will be hitting his final year of arbitration. Assuming that the Dodger ownership isn't just hellbent on proving that they finally found the one tree that cash grows on, the future contract obligations might actually cause them to show semblance of restraint, especially when it comes to making a monster signing of Greinke or one of the other top players on the market.
Or maybe they really will just continue what they've been doing and willfully overpay to make sure they get their guy and make that $240 payroll estimate look conservative.
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They're definitely playing the PR game, not just to bring the fans back and for top free agents to consider them, but for that big TV contract. They have to put a powerhouse team together for the next few years, but they'll have to ratchet back later. The blank check, sky's the limit tactic is calculated, but not a perpetual mode of operation. Once the TV contract is in hand, I wouldn't be surprised to see a thinning of high priced and veteran players through trades and other moves, keeping the best performers, and maintaining the payroll just under the limit in the future.