Brandon League Deal a Sign of How Insanely High Dodgers' Payroll Could Go
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The Los Angeles Dodgers are owned by Magic Johnson and his merry troupe of investors, but it oftentimes feels like the guy actually pushing all the buttons is none other than Jay Gatsby. They're clearly owned by a new-money mogul of some sort who doesn't give a darn about how rich men are supposed to spend their riches.
I mean, seriously, Brandon League?
Yeah, Brandon League. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti announced on Tuesday that the club had re-signed the right-handed reliever to a three-year contract worth $22.5 million. His deal also has an option for the 2016 season.
This would be the same Brandon League who had the exact same WAR in 2012 as guys like Addison Reed and Brayan Villareal, according to FanGraphs. He would also be the same Brandon League who saw his strikeout-to-walk ratio tumble from 4.50 in 2011 to 1.64 in 2012. When discussing relievers, this is as good a sign as any that success may not necessarily be in League's future.
And yes, he would also be the same Brandon League who only made 28 appearances for the Dodgers after coming over in a trade from the Seattle Mariners at the non-waiver deadline. Evidently, he made an impression.
Enough of an impression, apparently, to get a deal similar to the one the Minnesota Twins gave Josh Willingham last winter. In fact, League is making $1.5 million more in his new deal than Willingham is in his. My guess is that League is not going to go on to post an .890 OPS with 35 homers and 110 RBI.
I could go on and on and on...and on, but you get the point. To put it lightly, the Dodgers just signed up to pay League a lot more money than he's worth over the next three years.
The Dodgers had their reasons to give League such a ridiculous contract. He was a real asset for them down the stretch, posting a 2.30 ERA and an 8.9 K/9 in 27.1 innings. Colletti further justified the signing by naming League the club's closer right then and there, which was a bit of a surprise given how well-suited Kenley Jansen is to the role.
There was also the comfort factor. You never know what you're going to get when it comes to relievers, and the familiarity the Dodgers have with League definitely played a part in their negotiations with him.
"You look at that and it's always better to get somebody you know, even for a short time," said Colletti, presumably while struggling to keep a straight face. "We had him in the clubhouse, saw how he prepares. And the coaching staff plays a vital role in the players you go after and retain. That's why we made this a priority."
All of these factors helped the deal get done in a relatively quick manner. The primary force that drove the deal to get done, however, was something else entirely.
It's the fact that the Dodgers just really don't give a you-know-what.
Ever since Johnson and his cohorts took over, the Dodgers have been disregarding pretty much every single guideline that exists in Major League Baseball for how to spend money wisely and efficiency. They haven't even been in power for a year, and they've already succeeded in making the old George Steinbrenner Yankees teams look like penny-pinching punks.
We've seen the Dodgers sign Andre Ethier to an $85 million contract extension that he's not worth. Soon after, we saw them ink Cuban defector Yasiel Puig to a $42 million contract that had Ben Badler of Baseball America and many others saying "WTF!"
And then came their August trade with the Boston Red Sox, in which the Dodgers agreed to take on Boston's three most problematic contracts. In taking on Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, the Dodgers didn't even bat an eye when over $250 million in salaries came with them.
And on Tuesday, they committed $22.5 million to a mediocre right-handed reliever with a mediocre career track record who will probably continue to be mediocre.
The question, naturally, is where it ends. How much more ridiculous can the Dodgers' spending really get?
Oh man. You don't even want to know.
By now, I'm guessing most people have already concluded that the Dodgers' payroll for the 2013 season is going to be utterly ridiculous, and it most certainly will be. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, the Dodgers entered the offseason with just about $193 million in salaries committed for 2013. Assuming that's accurate, League's new deal puts them right at the $200 million mark in commitments.
That's a ton of money already, and the scary part is that free agency hasn't even ramped up yet, and the Dodgers certainly have holes in their roster that they can patch with free agents.
Recently, Colletti told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that he'd like to find a starting pitcher this offseason, and he also expressed a desire to shore up the club's bullpen and round out the club's outfield depth.
Colletti has already retained a significant piece for the team's bullpen, and he may not have much work to do regarding the bullpen if he also re-signs Jamey Wright and Randy Choate. One shudders to think of how much money they'll get.
The club's outfield quandary probably won't require that much money to solve, but we could very well see the Dodgers break the bank to sign a starting pitcher. They should be considered an option for the best of the best on the market, a list that includes names like Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez, Ryan Dempster and Hiroki Kuroda.
By the time the Dodgers are done signing up free agents, I wouldn't be surprised if their payroll for the 2013 season is somewhere around $225 million. Add in the money they're going to be dishing out to players like A.J. Ellis and others in arbitration, and the club's payroll could escalate beyond the $230 million mark.
This, of course, would be kinda ridiculous. At some point, the Dodgers will have to start cutting costs, and Colletti surely will do that in some way. He's not going to let the club's payroll spiral too far out of control.
But one way or another, the Dodgers are going to have a payroll well north of $200 million come Opening Day. According to Dayn Perry of CBSSports.com, the record for the highest Opening Day payroll in MLB history belongs to the 2005 Yankees, who began the year with a payroll just over $208 million.
That record is going down. Like, in flames.
Ridiculous payrolls aren't going to be a one-time thing for the Dodgers. At some point, they're going to have to sign Clayton Kershaw to a contract extension, and my best guess is that he'll demand over $25 million per year when he and the Dodgers actually sit down to do business. He'll get it too.
Further on down the road, the Dodgers will have to worry about replacing Hanley Ramirez and Josh Beckett after they hit free agency in 2015. The smart money is on the Dodgers replacing the two of them with free agents, and these lucky souls will probably be signed for more money than Ramirez and Beckett were making in their days as Dodgers.
One's first impulse, especially if one is a Dodger hater, is to say that there's no way the Dodgers can keep throwing money around like they are. At some point, the well will run dry and the Dodgers will have a brand new Frank McCourt nightmare on their hands.
Think again. The Dodgers play in one of the biggest media markets in the world, and they have a reinvigorated fanbase to lean on to keep the revenue flowing. The Dodgers ranked fifth in attendance in 2012, according to ESPN.com, and they could easily top the charts in 2013 if the team is as successful as it should be.
But the ballpark revenue the Dodgers could be dealing with is nothing compared to the TV money they could have at their disposal pretty soon.
Way back in March, David Wharton of the Los Angeles Times speculated that the Dodgers' next TV deal could be worth as much as $4 billion. Time proved him wise, as Ronald Grover of Reuters reported in late August that the Dodgers and FOX Sports had begun discussions on a new multi-billion dollar cable TV deal.
Bear in mind that the Dodgers seemed to have a TV deal worth billions in place when McCourt agreed to a 20-year, $3 billion deal with FOX in 2011 that was ultimately rejected by MLB. If the talks the Dodgers and FOX are having now lead anywhere, indications are that the new deal would be worth more money than the $3 billion deal McCourt agreed to.
There's also national TV money out there. Every team in baseball is about to get more of it in the years to come, as MLB recently signed new contracts with ESPN and with FOX and Turner Sports. The money from those deals will be spread out evenly among MLB's 30 teams, meaning the Dodgers will get a few extra bucks in their bankroll for doing absolutely nothing.
With all the money that is sure to be flying around in Chavez Ravine in the next couple years, the only thing that could stop the Dodgers from sending their payroll through the clouds is MLB's luxury tax threshold. It will be set at $189 million in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and the penalties for repeat offenders will be quite severe.
But will that stop the Dodgers?
Let's see...They're going to have many hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal thanks to TV money, ballpark revenue and merchandise sales, and their owners are hell-bent on buying a championship or two...So...No, probably not.
This is real, folks. The Dodgers have money, and they're not about to stop spending it. Their payroll is going to be well over $200 million in 2013, and I wouldn't be surprised if they challenged the $300 million plateau at some point within the next decade.
If they get there, we'll all start looking around and asking how the heck it happened. Where did it all begin?
Brandon League, man. Brandon League.
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