The conventional thought was they might avoid going over the threshold seeing as they have a World Series title in the bag, but with most teams reluctant to spend — using the pandemic as an excuse not to — the Dodgers should take advantage of this.
Their projected payroll, presently, is pushing the $200 million mark (including arbitration estimates). With third base still vacant and rumors of them being interesting in some big-name, big-money players, there’s almost no way they can stay under the threshold, unless they end up trading a Kenley Jansen (not happening) Joe Kelly, AJ Pollock or David Price.
Some think Price will opt out of part or all of the 2021 season, using flimsy logic about his opting out last year and COVID-19 being worse at present. At this point, the Dodgers are expecting Price to be with the team for 2021, so it’s silly to assume otherwise. In the end, I don’t think anyone gets dealt to free up money.
But this is about DJ LeMahieu, the non-Dodger name most attached to them so far this offseason.
LeMahieu is coming off a strong two seasons with the Yankees, and they definitely want him back. Their reported offer to him is 4 years and $84 million. Rumor had it he wants 5/$110-125 million, but we all know that isn’t likely to happen. This has also prompted folks to wonder if Andrew Friedman would commit that much money and, more importantly, that many years to a 32-year-old position player.
The thing is, he has already done something similar in his Dodger tenure. And I’m not talking about his re-signing of Justin Turner after the 2016 season (4 years, $64 million, going into his age-32 season). He did this with Pollock two winters ago.
Pollock was heading into his age-31 season and coming off a good-not-great season with the Diamondbacks. He dealt with injuries, as he has for most of his career, and produced a 2.6 WAR and 111 wRC+. That netted him a guaranteed 4-year deal, with the total outlay potentially being 5 years, $ 60 million. While the money isn’t similar, the length of the deal would be similar to what LeMahieu is looking to secure. Also, Friedman was willing to surrender a draft pick and $500,000 of international signing bonus money to sign Pollock, so I don’t think he’d hesitate to do so for a better player in LeMahieu and a guy he has been interested in for a few years now.
We could see a 4-5-year deal worth $88-95 million to land LeMahieu. With the Dodgers’ future payroll commitments, they could definitely make it work. Yes, they have to think about extending Corey Seager and maybe Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler, but that may not be a priority (or doable) this offseason. However, a Seager extension would make sense now if they’re going to go over the tax so that his AAV for the life of the extension is a little less because they’d be paying for one arbitration year rather than one free-agent year.
LeMahieu is a versatile infielder whose best position is second base. As such, if the Dodgers sign him, they should also re-sign Turner.
With the designated hitter all but a certainty to be in the National League permanently after this season, a 3-year commitment to Turner — who’s seeking a 4-year deal, reportedly — would make sense. It would also lower the AAV of his deal (instead of a 2/26-30 deal, it could be a 3/30-36 deal), making it easier to fit into the payroll (luxury tax-wise) for the future.
The Dodgers would have to pay a 20% tax on every cent over the $210 million threshold. They’ve done this in the past and have been under the last few years, so a 1-year overage wouldn’t be that much of an expenditure, especially when teams continue to cry poor.
If they want to put themselves in the best position to repeat as champions, it could be as easy as spending a little money on quality, upper-echelon players like LeMahieu and Turner. If they need to make any upgrades at the trade deadline, they could still do so, but the pitching staff — even without a “true” closer, is strong.
I’m not sure they’re going to do this, but there’s a lot of smoke around LeMahieu and it’s really difficult to envision Turner playing elsewhere. We’ll see if this is Friedman’s plan and if ownership OKs the extra spending (it should).