The Dodgers, aside from arbitration-eligible players, will have one person under contract after 2022.
Everyone constantly jokes about how the Los Angeles Dodgers “print money,” which feels partially true, but every team has its limitations. We’ve talked about LA likely drawing a line in the sand in regard to Trevor Bauer, whose reported exorbitant contract demands feel way too much for any team.
But in the case of DJ LeMahieu, whom the Dodgers are reportedly eyeing in free agency, it’s a bit different. Unlike Bauer, LeMahieu has a proven track record of success and was the Yankees’ MVP in each of the last two seasons. Bauer has just one full season with an ERA under a 4.18.
Everyone’s worried about the luxury tax and/or overspending for an aging player, but the Dodgers are likely in the LeMahieu sweepstakes for good reason. The latest buzz indicates LeMahieu is seeking a five-year contract, which the Yankees don’t seem keen on fulfilling. Some believe he’s looking for a five-year, $125 million deal, while others have reported five years for $100.
Either way, the Dodgers can afford that for this sole reason: they have only Mookie Betts under contract after the 2022 season.
Obviously, the Dodgers will have some arbitration-eligible players on the books, like Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias, in addition to a $13 million team option for Max Muncy and a $10 million player option for AJ Pollock, but that’s still hardly anything when you really break things down.
So go ahead! Give DJ that five-year, $125 million contract and backload some of it to stay under the luxury tax threshold in 2021. It’ll hardly have any effect once 2024 and 2025 roll around. Plus, he can play multiple positions, so it’ll make the Dodgers’ endeavors in free agency and on the trade market a little bit more flexible.
This will make the Dodgers the overwhelming favorites to repeat as World Series champs in 2021 and give them a more favorable shot in 2022 depending on what happens with Corey Seager, Clayton Kershaw and David Price.
If we look ahead to 2023, the Dodgers will have just $124 million committed to the payroll, and that includes every contract option and arbitration payment they’ll have to make. That’s nothing for them. Tack on a $25-$28 million salary for LeMahieu that year, and we’re looking at a shade over or under $150 million, giving them at least another $60 million to safety spend before the luxury tax.
Whatever the case, the whole point for splurging on LeMahieu is to increase the Dodgers’ short-term championship odds, which would do the trick for both 2021 and 2022. Overpaying for decline years is a given when you’re talking about a 32-year-old player.
But the Dodgers can easily do it given their future payroll situation and they’d likely be more comfortable handing out that dough to him than a guy like Bauer given their pitching depth and other favorable options on the trade market.