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They Are Playing With Monopoly Money

I know I sometimes come across as being unhappy with the results of Andrew Friedman.  Not true.  I think AF has done a fantastic job doing what he is undoubtedly tasked to do.  Put the best roster together that will be a contender every year and at a cost that will still generate a profit.  Contrary to the belief that the Dodgers have an unlimited source of funds, they too have a budget.  No billionaire became a billionaire by ignoring profits.

Just because I believe that AF is a top executive, does not mean that I sheepishly agree with all of his moves.  I question.  AF is not immune to questions.  He does not have to answer my questions, but I reserve the right to rhetorically ask them.

Yes it is great that the Dodgers have made the playoffs 11 straight years, and should continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  I have written multiple posts that IMO, AF is the best MLB exec at putting a roster together for the regular season.  The Dodgers have fallen short of the true prize in all but one shortened season.  Is it AF’s fault?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  His job is to get the players, but the players have to perform.  But why didn’t the Dodgers re-sign their NLCS/WS MVP? It gets old to continue with the line that we tried, we just came up short.  And yet they have still won 100 games for the last four consecutive full seasons.  AF had a lot to do with that.  But if he gets credit for putting that level of a team together, he should also take partial blame for not getting the right personnel for the October games.

Their playoff teams have been devoid of clutch players, including their HOF Ace, Clayton Kershaw.  Can this be fixed?  I would like their chances more if the starting rotation was elite, and if the offense would not rely so much on the three-outcome approach too many of their players deploy.  I would like it more if AF had better anticipated the games rule changes, and adapted them to the 2023 team.   They have the ability to adapt.  No team played the shift better than the Dodgers.  Figure it out.  That is AF’s job to find the players who are best equipped to play pursuant to the new rules.  Signing the pitcher with the worst record of SB against (Noah Syndergaard) in a year that the SB was going to be a weapon again, was not prescient.  Who gets the blame for that?  Did the Dodgers make any effort at all at trying to trade for Jordan Montgomery?  Did they come in 3rd or 4th again?

Regardless costs will always be a factor in roster construction.  We know many of the low revenue teams, but this year we are learning of a couple of other organizations that have been contenders, that will be paring their payroll.

A couple of recent examples of scaling back this year from contending teams.  One is in the NL West, the San Diego Padres.  The 2023 opening day payroll for the Padres was just south of $249MM, with an estimated year end payroll estimated at about $264.5.MM.

The Padres’ spending increases have outpaced their revenue increases. This has not been a secret. Team officials have been talking for more than a year — even as massive checks were still being written — about getting costs under control.

How much the team is bringing in is not a known number, though one highly placed source says the team has doubled revenue since 2018 and others around baseball marvel at the impressive gains. However, the size of the payroll is known, and it has jumped from $104 million in 2018 to the season-ending figure of around $253 million in ‘23.

The Padres currently have 12 players under contract totaling $155MM ($209MM AAV), including $12.6MM for Eric Hosmer.  That does not count six players due arbitration salaries that could be north of $50MM (including Juan Soto at $33MM).   18 players totaling $205MM. Add another $20MM for benefits, and the current payroll cost sits north of $225MM ($259MM AAV). The huge disparity between actual costs and AAV would indicate that payroll costs for players currently under contract will necessarily increase.  Machado, Tatis Jr., and Cronenworth alone have an excess AAV of more than $30MM from their 2024 payroll.  These are unfunded liabilities that play into management decisions.

Padres management is on record that they must reduce payroll.  In part because they are out of compliance with MLB regulations regarding their debt service ratio, according to multiple sources, the plan is to go into 2024 with player commitments of around $200 million.

They have lost their Ace (Snell), their closer (Hader), two other starting pitchers (Wacha and Lugo), their long man/#6 (Martinez), and multiple bench pieces.  All need to be replaced, albeit not at the same level of talent.  Will that mean that Soto gets traded before the season?

San Diego is further cash crunched due to the bankruptcy of their MLB Network provider, Diamond Sports Group.  Diamond Sports Group has relinquished their rights to provide network TV for the Padres, and MLB is now operating in that capacity.  But MLB is only paying a portion of the revenues the Padres anticipated.

Here is a more complete story on the current plight of the Padres.  What will happen after the loss of owner and Chairman, Peter Seidler, is still open.

 

https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sports/padres/story/2023-09-25/padres-payroll-juan-soto-nick-martinez-seth-lugo-michael-wacha-debt

 

Minnesota, after winning the AL Central, is also on a cost cutting plan.  La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune relays that Minnesota’s efforts to cut costs have not been limited to the major league roster. The club’s scouting department has seen a number of departures thanks to both desire to trim payroll and “streamline” the club’s scouting apparatus with an emphasis on analytics.

They are not the only teams that are struggling with the higher payroll costs.  And now we are hearing reports that one player could be asking for $600MM with no evidence that he will ever be able to pitch at the elite level again.  Maybe Ohtani will be able to, but that is a lot of money to gamble on one player.  I have said it continuously, this is not a baseball decision, but a business decision.  Probably one that some teams will be able to recoup in non-baseball strategies and team value increases.

Teams are playing with monopoly money, and the big guys own Boardwalk and Park Place and have hotels, while the low revenue teams are doing everything they can do stay away from Boardwalk and Park Place.  The Dodgers are one of the teams on Boardwalk and Park Place, but not the only team.

The Dodgers have the ability to play the $$$ game.  But they have decided to play the long game rather than take the path of the Padres.  Ken Rosenthal was asked which team is the best operated and he had this to say:

“They’ve performed remarkably under the (Andrew) Friedman/Dave Roberts regime. They are in the playoffs virtually every year. They have one of the best farm systems in the game virtually every year. Yes they have more money no doubt about it and they generally use it quite well but in terms of putting a competitive, winning team on the field every season, giving their fans something to look forward to every season. No team has done it as consistently well over a longer period than the Dodgers.”

 

For a complete interview:

 

https://twitter.com/FoulTerritoryTV/status/1726762348378239145?s=20

 

I cannot disagree with what Ken Rosenthal had to say.

It is not just baseball personnel that costs.  MiLB player costs, scouting costs, development costs, analytic costs, management payroll and benefits, interest…The Dodgers have reportedly exorbitant management payroll, analytic costs, and development costs.  The Dodgers generate a lot of revenue, but a lot of that revenue goes into a pool to help the low revenue producing

 

Badger opined:

If they want Burnes above anybody else they can probably get him. The Brewers are gonna want the house, but for any player in the last year of a contract they will have to settle for less.

 I still believe the Dodgers can sign Ohtani and get the pitching they need:

 Ohtani
Yamamoto/Imanaga
Giolito.
And perhaps Burnes in a trade.

 It could happen. Will it?

 We wait.

 

I assume they can as well.  Ohtani – $50MM, Imanaga – $17MM, Burnes – $15.1MM (Est arbitration).  That will put them over the CBT threshold, but barely, and will not be a concern.    That leaves them without a RH bat, and even though many of you believe Vargas can be that RH bat, I am not sure the Dodgers do.  If the Dodgers do get a RH bat, that will leave Jason Heyward looking for another team.

If the Dodgers choose not to add that RH bat, and instead choose to re-sign Jason Heyward, that leaves him in a platoon role, which I hate.  But the Dodgers have no problem with platooning, and in fact choose that as their preferred strategy.

Could the Dodgers look more at Dylan Cease because of 2 years control?  His estimated arbitration salary will be $8.8.

If the Dodgers do sign Ohtani, that would put the Dodgers AAV payroll north of $100MM for three players for 4 years, and around $80MM for two players for 5 subsequent years.  There is no guarantee that Ohtani will ever return to being an elite pitcher, and that level of a commitment for an offensive weapon for 10 or more years will be formidable to absorb.

Yes the Dodgers can do it.  Will they go all in this year?  Will that have an impact on the future capabilities of the team.  None of us know those answers, and the Dodgers are not going to share.  But there is a lot more to the equation and algorithms about signing Ohtani or not that we will never be made aware of.  Only if they sign him or not.  Stay tuned.

Monopoly money indeed.

 

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norcaldodgerfan

Sonny Gray was never a real possibility with the Dodgers as it has been reported he wanted to sign with a team closer to his Tennessee home. Looks like he will be signing with the Cardinals.

Just what is AF’s plan to make the 2024 Dodgers better for the changes in baseball and a better post season showing? We should start to see his plan unfold starting very soon and will it start with the signing of Ohtani?

Dave

I believe they can sign Heyward and get a rh outfielder plus a 3rd baseman and 2 starting pitchers but they would have to not sign Obtani.There are only 26 roster spots.
Assume 13 pitchers, then
Mookie, Freeman, Smith, Barnes, Lux, Muncie, Outman,Taylor, Rojas, Heyward, a rh of, a rh 3rd baseman and either Vargas, Busch or DeLuca.

Sam Oyed

Heyward to be resigned by the Dodgers for 9 million.

Oldbear48

Gray is getting 25 mil a year. Wow.

Badger

The Dodgers are a well run organization with the ability to support a payroll over the tax threshold every year should they choose to do so. Will they in ‘24? I believe so, but obviously I don’t know if they will.

I believe Busch will hit in MLB. I think if fully recovered Vargas will too. I trust the organization has both in winter conditioning programs with drills concentrating on what defensive skills need to be worked on at positions they feel will help them both leap forward.

That said, if neither are traded, and I believe at least one will be, Vargas in left, or at third, and Busch at second from now through Spring Training would prepare them both for starting jobs in the bigs. The question I have is where will they be playing?

Betts 2B
Freeman 1B
Ohtani DH
Smith C
Muncy 3B
Vargas LF
Outman CF
Heyward RF
Lux SS

Burnes
Imanaga
Miller
Buehler
Pepiot
Sheehan
Yarbrough

First up on the bench – Taylor

I have no problem with a platoon of maybe Deluca in right. Also on the bench is Rojas and perhaps Hernandez

Bullpen will once again be outstanding as there are many arms from which to choose.

I fully expect something different of course, but that is a team that would win the West

Last edited 6 months ago by Badger
Bluto

Agree 100%, but Winning the West is a key step towards solving the problem going forward.

Bumsrap

Gotta corner the market to build hotels so the Dodgers need to own both Park Place and Boardwalk. I can live with owning 3 green squares. A team can win by owning Baltic and Connecticut though.

Bobby

I always did well when I owned the railroads; seemed to make consistent rent money!

Badger

I was never good with money. My houses, 3 of them, got clobbered in ‘08. The rest of my money went to creating great memories. Monopoly was not on my play list.

Oldbear48

Dodgers interested in reliever Robert Stephenson. Per MLBTR. WHo he???????

Oldbear48

Dodgers pen had the third best ERA in the majors last year. Bring back Brasier.

Bluto

Brasier older and probably more expensive.

Singing the Blue

JHey is returning on a 1 year, 9 mil deal.

I believe that Andrew has now used up all of his free agent budget for winter 2023.

Singing the Blue

Beat you by 2 seconds!

Maybe that makes DeLuca feel better about his chances for next season.

Badger

The RF platoon is half finished.

Singing the Blue

Who knows what plans AF has for the outfield? At this point he could repeat last year’s platoon of Betts/JHey in right but there is no Peralta this year so Heyward could also spend some time in left. I just don’t see CT3 as the every day left fielder. We’ll probably have a clearer picture next month.

Badger

Yes I am assuming Mookie full time at second. Up the middle defense is high on my priority list, but that may be outdated in today’s game. I think he’s the best we have there. JHey in right most of the time, roughly 70%, so a RH hitting outfielder, maybe Taylor since he’s already being paid, or ST competition might tell us who gets the AB’s against lefties. I’m hoping Deluca earns the job.

Can Vargas earn the LF job? What position is he taking fungo this week, next week, all winter, Spring Training. Or do we sign someone like Jorge Soler? He projects 26 home runs and a .782 OPS. Lots to sort out there.

Bobby

Shota Imanaga posted today, so it’ll be interesting to see how quickly he signs, or will he wait for Yamamoto to sign first

Singing the Blue

Comments to your comments:

1) Braves – Cease seems like a very good fit and he’ll be cheap for the coming season, something that might appeal to AA. If he had been traded to Atl after 2022 he might well have signed an extension, but after last season, he’d be foolish to do that after what for him was a mediocre year. Imanaga strikes me as a good fit also, and one that I don’t believe has been mentioned in conjunction with the Braves.

2) Imanaga – I don’t agree that he’ll necessarily wait for Yamamoto to set the market because I don’t believe they’re in the same market, contract wise (either $ or length of contract). Most people seem to think he’ll be in the neighborhood of 5/80-85 and I think Gray and Montgomery are more comparable, not Yamamoto. Yes, he’ll probably have a few extra bidders once Yamamoto makes his decision but I think that if he gets an offer he likes from a team he wants to pitch for, he’ll sign at that point.

Heyman – he seems like a good guy, but of all the pundits on tv, I put him near the bottom of my list for guys who have a feel for what’s going to happen. Give me Passan, Rosenthal, Sherman and Feinsand any day. The Central will be stronger this year with the Cards, Reds and Cubs all probably being improved. This might be exactly the time to move Burnes (and possibly Adames) because the odds of a Brewer division title will be tougher than last year. They probably won’t be able to re-sign either of those guys so get as much as you can for them now. I will apologize to Mr. H. if he turns out to be right (which will mean I was wrong).

Busch/Vargas – I’m going to say what I said at the end of last season, that being if the Dodgers plan to give them a good amount of playing time, it’s fine to keep them and see which one, if either, proves himself. If you just plan to keep them around to fill in or pinch hit, trade them.

Last edited 6 months ago by Singing the Blue
Singing the Blue

Baltimore has a wealth of prospects who are blocked by good young players who have recently made their MLB debuts. They seem like the ideal team to trade for any of Burnes, Glasnow or Cease, all of whom they could really use.

I guess the Reds are in somewhat the same position.

tedraymond

Back to Ohtani discussion from yesterday and the relationship between WAR and value.

Badger commented on Ohtani’s WAR (oWAR) and OPS+:

Consider this Ted:
$9 million/WAR. Last year he put up 6 oWAR with a 184 OPS+.
He is definitely worth $40m per year, at least for the next 3 years. Get the pitching lined up for next year, and for that I am fine with a rental, sit back and enjoy the show.

First, I have no issues with signing Ohtani and watching him play for the Dodgers. I think it’s way out of the box for AF. To commit $500MM over the next ten years in order to get (for example) three years worth of value doesn’t make sense to me. But, it’s not money so if ownership wants to happen then so be it.

Badger, I don’t understand how one WAR is valued at $9MM. I looked online and they used a $8MM figure. Both numbers seem way too high and not realistic. The $8MM figured was based on research so that’s the one I’ll use below. For “stars” and “superstar” the values are crazy. It might work for lower WAR level players.

I looked up a few examples with some pitchers how have signed in the past couple of years, recently signed, and still available free agents. I came up with one WAR being worth $5-$6MM.

Recently signed Sonny Gray had a WAR of 5.4 in 2023. At $8MM that would be a value of $43.2MM a year. He signed for $25MM a year which $4.62 per WAR.

Ohtani had a oWAR of 6 and a pitching WAR of 4 in 2023. So, at $8MM that’s an annual salary of $80MM. At $50MM (10 yr / $500MM) annually that comes to $5MM per WAR.

Gerritt Cole had annual WAR of 6.1 with his two years with Houston before signing with the Yankees for $324MM/9years. At $36MM a year with a 6.1 WAR that comes to a $5.9MM per WAR

Blake Snell goes onto free agency with a 2023 WAR of 6. That gives Snell’s value of $48MM annually. Snell’s value is estimated to be $28-$30MM a year. That’s, at most $5MM per WAR.

So, as a learning moment for me, what am I missing with this value (either $8/$9MM) of one WAR figure as a way to determine $$ value?

I appreciate you or anyone else help clear this up for me.

Carry on.

Singing the Blue

I’m going to let Badger and/or Jeff D answer your WAR question Ted, but I just want to thank you for your always interesting and thoughtful comments and questions. Please keep them coming.

tedraymond

Thanks STB. I appreciate that. I try to continue to learn in my 75th year!

Last edited 6 months ago by tedraymond
Singing the Blue

I just turned 77 and am happy to tell you that if you hang in there for 2 more years, you’ll be a Know-It-All, just like me.  😂 

Bumsrap

I used to be that way and then I turned 76.

Great analysis Ted.

Bluto
tedraymond

Thanks Bluto. I was basing one WAR value on past stats and the higher amount is projected total WAR for the new contract. Which makes no sense to me. Ignore the fact of past performance and base a new contract on guesses. Ok. At least an explanation. So, I feel informed.
Anyway, you’re the messenger! Again, thanks for the information.

Last edited 6 months ago by tedraymond
Badger

I’ve read the number is between 8-9 in a few places. fangraphs has had a few pieces over the years about the topic, the first one I read was quite a while ago and as I recall they were talking near $10m back then. It’s been modified over the years.

I’m reading something somewhere every day so I don’t recall exactly where I read “near 9” but I know I did. The Dodgers put up 42.4 WAR last year with a salary of $287m so that comes to $6.77m per WAR, making Ohtani a bargain at $50m, which was the point I was trying to make.

Here’s a fangraphs article from the winter of ‘21 that addresses it:

What Are Teams Paying Per WAR in Free Agency?

$ per WAR is a sliding scale. I could look for the article that references between 8 and 9 but I don’t think I’ll bother. Your point is made.

Last edited 6 months ago by Badger
Badger
tedraymond

Very good explanation on a possible Ohtani contract. Thanks for taking the time to find this.

A 12 year contract at $37MM per is something that would be easier for the Dodgers to possibly stay under the CBT limit for 2024 even with adding a couple of FA/traded for starting pitching. Possible opt outs might be incorporated considering the unknowns with Ohtani’s arm injuries.

Badger

That’s $444m. Might work, who knows. I suggested below 10 years, $480, which would make it more difficult to stay under the cap, certainly for a few years. The cap of course will increase every year.

The key might be getting more wins from the younger players producing through their arbitration years. Lux, Vargas, Busch, Cartaya, Rushing, Pages, Deluca and the plethora of young arms could certainly help, though some obviously will be traded.

I would hope a guy like Ohtani, after playing for the Angels, would recognize if he wants to play for a team with a shot at a championship every year he would know the team needs money to put together a squad around him. He’s probably going to join the the rank of billionaire athlete eventually, and playing in Los Angeles will help make that happen.

Bobby

I thought this article on how the Dodgers’ 40 man roster is looking was very well written and easy to understand (a must for a dummy like me)

Dodgers 40-Man Roster Full After Jason Heyward Signing, What Moves Will Be Next for LA?

Badger

”Pitching and hitting, he produced a combined 9.4 fWAR in 2022 and 9.0 in ‘23. Fangraphs estimates 1 WAR to be worth about $8 million in free agency, but some analysts believe the number is closer to $9 million to $10 million. By the latter measure, Ohtani was worth between $81 and $94 million annually in those two seasons.” The Athletic, November 20, 2023

The Athletic said this, and this is in reference to Ohtani. Aaron Nola, who put up 2.1 WAR last year just signed a contract for $172m, so the Phillies were willing him $12m per WAR to keep him. Scherzer and Verlander, signed for big game pitching, were both around $12m. I wonder what Strasburg cost per was.

I can see Ohtani signing for 10 years, $480m, with possible incentives for innings pitched. What that will mean as far as cost per WAR doesn’t matter with him.

Bluto

Thanks for all of this Badger. Thank you very much.

Badger

Welcome Bluto. Just trying to contribute here.

It’s all speculation until it’s done. Ohtani in Dodger Blue will create quite the stir.

OhioDodger

It is time to move on from Barnes.

Bumsrap

But Hoese isn’t a catcher.

Dionysus

Feduccia

Bumsrap

Watching a little Hot Stove it seems that Snell would love to pitch for the Mariners. If they sign him they would want to trade a pitcher for a hitter. Maybe they would want Muncy with the Dodgers putting Rojas on third.

Bumsrap

What? Only the Dodgers love Max? He’s a division winner cleanup hitter. What’s not to like. Home runs, RBIs, OPS, plays 1st, 2nd, 3rd base. Relatively cheap. 2÷ years of control.

Ok, I admit to just doing my Muncy thing. I was overdue.

Singing the Blue

No MLB team, especially a perennial contender, is going to make Rojas their every day starting third baseman. Filling in every so often, fine, but not the starting third baseman.

For whatever reason, they’re willing to put up with a light hitting/power lacking hitter at shortstop or second, but not at the corners. Personally, I think that’s ridiculous. What does it matter where your power and RBI are coming from, position wise, as long as you have them.

And by the way, Max knows where you live. And he’s not very happy with you.

Badger

I traded Max too. To a short porch AL team, where he projects 42 HR, 100 ribbies. With me projecting those numbers, he won’t be pissed at me.

It used to be “strong up the middle”, catcher, middle infield, center, and power at the corner positions. But that may be from decades past in today’s game. That said, Rojas as an every day shortstop put up 2.6 dWAR. You do that and you’ll have a decent career without needing much offense.

Bumsrap

If he took a swing at me, he would probably miss.

Bobby

Max? Or Rojas? Or half of our team?

Bumsrap

Good question.

Singing the Blue

Badaboom!

He might, but on the rare occasion he’d connect, your head would go flying all the way to the coast. And someone would have to go get it out of the bay.

Isn’t this fun? I very much enjoy our jousting, Fred. Keep ’em coming.

Bumsrap

Rojas’ defense at third would bolster the left side defense which might be a good idea until we know how well Lux will play SS. It requires Ohtani being the DH. It subtracts Muncy’s bat and adds Lux and Ohtani’s bats.

Rojas’ bat was in a productive batting order last year.

Other players from both teams might have to be included.

Last edited 6 months ago by Bumsrap
Badger

Not a chance. Rojas is backup SS, Muncy is at third unless he isn’t and Vargas is there, unless he isn’t and Busch is there, unless he isn’t and Chapman is there, however probably won’t be, but was linked there by The Athletic. Winter sucks.

Last edited 6 months ago by Badger

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