The Dodgers and their big market brand will undoubtedly be linked to the biggest fish in the pond this winter, Bryce Harper. Do the Dodgers have room to fit in the enormous contract demands of Harper?
The agent for Bryce Harper, Scott Boras already fired a warning shot at the Dodgers yesterday saying that they are approaching Buffalo Bills territory. A team that in the 90’s lost multiple championship games in a row. Despite that criticism, the Dodgers are well positioned if they don’t add the albatross contract that Bryce Harper is demanding.
The Dodgers reset the luxury tax this year and even if they go over the tax threshold the next few seasons, they will likely aim to reset the tax again in the near future. Adding a big contract like the one that Harper is going to get, would throw the Dodgers into luxury tax hell for the foreseeable future.
There was news as early as this morning that the Dodgers may plan to stay under the tax threshold for several years. While this plan may not be set in stone, it’s worth remembering that this a Dodger front office that avoids long-term deals and prefers to have flexibility with their roster. An addition of Harper would eliminate all financial wiggle room.
The Dodgers already have nearly 53 million dollars committed to Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen. Adding a thirty plus million dollar a year contract would put the Dodgers close to 90 million dollars committed to just three players. Given the new tax penalties such as draft pick position loss and fines up to 50% of the amount over the threshold, even teams like the Yankees are being gun shy about spending the big bucks on an MVP candidate like Bryce Harper.
While the Dodgers do have the contracts of Matt Kemp (21 mil), Rich Hill (18.6 mil), Justin Turner (19 mil), Clayton Kershaw (33 mil), and Kenley Jansen (19 mil) all coming off the books before the 2022 season, it’s important to remember that the young core is going to get raises in arbitration and need contract extensions in the near future. On top of that, the Dodgers will need a replacement for each of the aforementioned players who are coming off the books.
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Joc Pederson and Enrique Hernandez are free agents after the 2020 season, while Corey Seager and Chris Taylor are free agents after the 2021 season. Then there are Walker Buehler, Cody Bellinger, and Julio Urias who all become free agents after the 2023 season. If the Dodgers fill their needs with shorter term contracts, combined with the bigger contracts coming off the books over the next several years, the Dodgers are well positioned to keep and sign their core to long-term extensions in the coming years.
In addition to having a solid foundation, the Dodgers will be able to replace guys like Kershaw and Turner when the time comes with quality free agents to add to the core of their roster. If the Dodgers go out and sign Bryce Harper, this foundation is going to lean heavily towards the big contracts on the payroll. Then when the time comes for extensions, the Dodgers will have tough choices to make.
While an addition like Bryce Harper is fun to dream about, this season showed that adding a superstar doesn’t guarantee any more success. The Dodgers got to seven games in the World Series last year and this year with Manny Machado the Dodgers only made it to a fifth game in the World Series. Harper would give the Dodgers better World Series odds without a doubt, but the Nationals had him on their good teams for many seasons and couldn’t even make it out of the first round.
The Dodgers would be better off sticking to their current strategy of signing players who fill areas of need on shorter-term deals. The Dodgers need bullpen help and could sign power arms who help their club now without mortgaging the big picture several years down the road. The Dodgers have knocked on the championship door the past couple seasons and are just a few tweaks away from ending their World Series drought.