Dodgers Payroll: What will it look like in 2022 and beyond?

Thomas Carannante
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 09: Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers receives his World Series ring from President, Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman prior to the game against the Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium on April 09, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 09: Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers receives his World Series ring from President, Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman prior to the game against the Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium on April 09, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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The interminable MLB lockout has forced baseball to take a major step backward, whether it’s obvious or not. Rosters are far from set for the 2022 season. The core economics of the game are unsettled and will leave teams scrambling to figure out their situations on the fly with just weeks before Opening Day (assuming a new collective bargaining agreement is settled in the near future).

And all of those factors (plus more) are affecting the Los Angeles Dodgers. Though they may “print money,” they’re still at a disadvantage because they don’t know their fate.

What will the competitive balance tax levels look like in 2022 and will it affect the organization’s spending? How many 40-man roster spots will be up for grabs after any upgrades/additions? Can we get on with the Trevor Bauer situation, too, please?

In order to assess what the 2022 payroll (and beyond) will look like, more answers are required, but there’s enough of a potential hint from last year’s figure to help fans out.

Analyzing the Dodgers’ payroll to see how spending will be affected in 2022

Los Angeles ended the 2021 season with a mammoth $285,599,944 payroll, which forced them to pay an insane $32,649,965 tax on the excess spending beyond $210 million threshold.

With Corey Seager, Max Scherzer and others gone, Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen floating in the locked out free agent waters, and the roster needing upgrades in just about every corner, what are the Dodgers to do with nearly $232 million already committed to the 2022 payroll? Will they go all-in for next year since they could be losing all of Trea Turner, Justin Turner, Max Muncy, Blake Treinen, AJ Pollock and others next November?

Or will they keep this number at bay/try to slash some salary to avoid another insane tax bill? We’re not saying the Dodgers are cheap or aren’t committed to winning, but the amount of upgrades they can make are limited due to the current free agent class, in addition to the mad rush there’s going to be for signing players and making trades once the lockout ends. The Dodgers will be facing a ton of competition and surely won’t be landing all of their desired targets (and may not even come close!).

A year after spending over $318 million for a disappointing NLCS exit, might LA focus on developing their next wave of talent while they have this current window open with all of their team leaders?

Throw in the growing belief that Kershaw won’t be back in 2022, and we’re looking at a roster that will be relying heavily on a burnt out top of the rotation (Walker Buehler, Julio Urias), an injured Muncy, and the bounce-back of all bounce-backs from Cody Bellinger.

Then there’s the alternative of going all in for the next two seasons. The options for Pollock, Turner, Muncy and Treinen are mostly cost-effective and wouldn’t save the Dodgers a whole lot (only $37 million between the four of them when you include the buyouts). Plus, next year offers an opportunity for some more financial flexibility with David Price and other one-year deals coming off the books, in addition to the hope that Bauer’s $17 million for 2023 gets trashed when his case is settled with MLB.

For 2023, the Dodgers have a $155 million payroll when factoring in everything (guaranteed salaries, arbitration salaries and contract options), which is low for a big market franchise of their stature. After that, the numbers dip to $106 million, $133 million, $131 million and $92 million from 2024-2027.

The end of the 2023 season also coincides with a contract year for Walker Buehler and the guaranteed free agencies of all the aforementioned contract option players, Urías, Bellinger and Bauer.

Dodgers fans are looking at two likely scenarios at opposite ends of the spectrum. What direction will Andrew Friedman and Co. choose?

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