If you didn’t already know this, we keep an updated list of Dodger salary commitments for the next few years right on this very site. (“Doesn’t Cots do that,” you might ask. Yes, but this is prettier. Also, shut up.) It’s not intended to show every single minimum salary possibility, so don’t ask me about Pedro Baez & Joc Pederson, but it’s a good resource to use for a snapshot of what the team’s financial situation looks like. Now that Brian Wilson & Dan Haren have both officially taken their 2015 player options, by my count the Dodgers have $189 million already on the books for next year, plus Chad Billinglsey’s buyout, which is mostly covered by money coming from the Red Sox in the Nick Punto trade. (These are raw numbers, not adjusted for average annual salary.)
Obviously, the Dodgers are going to make at least one addition this winter — hi, Russell Martin — and so obviously the payroll is going to be north of $200 million. Of course, $189m isn’t even the entirety of it, because the Dodgers have seven arbitration cases to worry about as well. This week, MLB Trade Rumors, who are usually very good at projecting this sort of thing, came out with estimated figures for the seven Dodgers:
Let’s get the obligatory “the Dodgers haven’t gone to arbitration since back in 2007 with Joe Beimel” out of the way and note that this is an entirely new regime, so it’s at least possible.
Three of these seem like absolute no-brainers: Gordon, Jansen, and Turner are all obviously getting tendered offers. I’m still not entirely sure what the team has in Gordon — I suggested selling high on him just a week or so ago — but a three-win player for $2.5m, well, yeah, you do that. Turner’s fantastic-yet-unsustainable year is enough to potentially double his salary, and if it seems unfair that he was so good and still isn’t slotted to make all that much, well, that’s just how arbitration works. (Also, he has no track record, isn’t a starter, and won’t be as good in 2015.) Jansen is of course one of the elite closers in baseball, and while we know that relievers can be volatile, he’s one of the best and he’s still young (27 in 2015), meaning that it might make sense to attempt a multi-year deal to buy out at least his last two arbitration years, if not also some free agent time.
Barney is an elite fielder who just cannot hit. That’s not without value, but it sure seems like you can find a better way to spend $2.5m. Ellis, we’ve already discussed a lot. That’s a considerable amount of cash for an older catcher coming off a brutal season, so a non-tender is at least a possibility. If a starting upgrade can be reached, perhaps a moderately-priced two-year deal to keep Ellis around as much for his off-field abilities and keeping Clayton Kershaw happy could make sense. Both he and Butera are out of options, and I have a hard time seeing Butera on the 2015 team, though they may not want to cut bait until they need to. (Remember, arbitration awards are not guaranteed; teams can cut players before Opening Day and owe just 30 or 45 days pay, depending on the date.)
The Dodgers have to decide whether or not they’re going to tender a contract by Dec. 2, and then figures must be exchanged with the arbitrator by Jan. 13. If deals aren’t made, hearings begin the first week of February.