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Why the Dodgers might avoid an offseason shopping spree

With a lot of dead money coming off the payroll, could the 2018 Dodgers be even better? The new CBA tried its best to stop something like this. Will it?

Los Angeles Dodgers Introduce Kenta Maeda Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

Since the Dodgers continue to struggle and definitely won’t win the World Series, it’s time to think about the offseason.

Losing streak or not, it’s not controversial to say that the Dodgers are stacked this season. At 96–52, the team is still on pace to win 105 games, and they should be able to clinch the National League West division sometime next week.

Obviously, for Dodgers fans, it’s not the time to be worrying about the offseason. Despite being consistently good for the past 15 years or so — especially including the last five, in which they’ve captured the NL West title every year — the Dodgers have not appeared in a World Series since 1988, when they beat the Athletics in five games.

The Dodgers’ Opening Day payroll this season was $227.8 million. Although this was a decrease from their 2016 figure, in-season additions have upped their current estimated payroll to around $276.1 million, per Baseball-Reference.

With that said, however, the team has a ton of dead money coming off the books at the end of the year, potentially allowing them to once again make big splashes in free agency and build upon a squad that could end up winning the World Series anyway.

Money Coming Off Dodgers’ Payroll

Player 2017 Earnings fWAR
Player 2017 Earnings fWAR
Andre Either* $17.5 million 0.0
Carl Crawford $21.86 million --
Chase Utley $2 million 1.0
Curtis Granderson** $15 million -0.5
Franklin Gutierrez $2.6 million -0.2
Logan Forsythe* $7 million 1.6
Tony Watson** $5.6 million 0.0
Yu Darvish** $11 million 0.5
*Team Options; **Acquired Midseason

There’s a lot to unpack here. Most of the money coming off the Dodgers’ payroll for 2018 are players that they acquired during the season, so their salaries would not have been reflected in the team’s Opening Day payroll.

On the other hand, Crawford, Either, Utley, Forsythe and Gutierrez all were on the Opening Day payroll; their salaries for 2017 were for a combined $50.96 million. That was almost a quarter of the Dodgers’ payroll coming into the season. Crawford didn’t play a single game for Los Angeles; he is “practically retired.” Ethier has been hurt pretty much for the entire year. Forsythe, Utley and Gutierrez all played, but none of them made a significant impact on the team.

The Dodgers’ main core of Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig, Corey Seager and Kenley Jansen is relatively cheap comparatively, and none of them are in line for big contracts anytime soon, either. (Some of them have already received such deals, while others are still years away.)

According to Baseball-Reference, the Dodgers currently have $177.7 million in guaranteed contracts for next year. This could give them the opportunity to make a splurge in free agency.

They could try and re-sign Yu Darvish. Johnny Cueto could be on their radar. Maybe they could go for an outfielder, like Justin Upton or J.D. Martinez — who could be an especially attractive option if they believe the Diamondbacks will also be in the running to keep him in uniform.

While all this sounds good, the new CBA could push the the Dodgers toward a conservative approach to the offseason. Here is the skinny on that:

  • Luxury Tax: $197 million will be the luxury tax threshold in 2018
  • Penalties: 20 percent for first-time offenders, 30 percent for second-time and 50 percent for third-time or more.
  • Surcharges: 12 percent surcharge when payroll is $20 to $40 million above the tax; 42.5 percent surcharge when payroll is more than $40 million above the tax; 45 percent surcharge when payroll is more than $40 million above the tax in consecutive years or longer. It’s important to note that the surcharges only apply to money that is beyond the $20 million above the tax. If a team is $21 million above the luxury tax, then they will only pay the surcharge on $1 million.
  • Draft Picks: Teams with a payroll that is $40 million or more above the luxury tax will have their highest selection move 10 spots down in the draft. The top six picks are protected, and those teams will have their second-highest selection move down 10 spaces.

If the Dodgers’ payroll balloons back to $227.8 million again, they are looking at a big bill.

In this scenario, the team’s payroll is only $30.8 million above the tax. I don’t know whether the Dodgers’ will be considered third-time offenders because of their payrolls before the new CBA, but for this article’s sake, let’s assume this is the case. Here’s how it will break down:

Dodgers’ 2018 Luxury Tax Situation

Expense Amount
Expense Amount
Payroll $227,800,000
Luxury Tax $197,000,000
$ Over $30,800,000
General Tax $15,400,000
$ Over $20MM $10,800,000
Surcharge Tax $4,860,000
Overall Luxury Tax $20,260,000
Total $248,060,000

A $20 million total luxury tax charge wouldn’t kill the Dodgers. As long as they are able to stay under the plus-$40 million “limit,” which would hurt their draft situation and thus their spending pool, they should easily be able to meet all fines. So, really, the Dodgers could get their payroll all the way up to $237 million without having an issue. Although that wouldn’t give them the flexibility to spend in-season.

Really, the Dodgers have about $50 million to spend this offseason, which could give them more than enough money to make their already historically great team even better.


Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.