ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 03: Los Angeles Dodgers owner Mark Walter during Game One of the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on October 3, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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The Dodgers need to cut payroll after reaching $1 billion in player spending

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If there’s any threat to the Dodgers’ ability to contend in 2017, it’s the size of their payroll. Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that the team spent approximately $1.181 billion in four years and needs to reduce their debt if they plan to comply with league rules. Shaikin adds that the debt is currently estimated to be in the “hundreds of millions.”

On average, the Dodgers have dumped an annual $295 million into player payroll dating back through 2013, when Guggenheim Baseball Management assumed control of the club. The expenditures were assumed to be a necessary part of the team’s efforts to stay competitive while remodeling their player development program. It’s this mentality that gives Dodgers’ ownership some comfort heading into the 2017 season. Via Shaikin:

So while the Dodgers would have to pay big in order to keep established stars such as third baseman Justin Turner and closer Kenley Jansen from signing elsewhere as free agents, the club says it otherwise is able to operate more efficiently because it has a minor league system that is churning out the young, relatively inexpensive talent necessary to sustain a perennial contender.

Retaining Turner and Jansen won’t come cheap, as the two figure to be in the top tier of free agents this offseason.

MLB debt service rules stipulate that a team cannot exceed “12 times annual revenue, minus expenses,” and all teams under new ownership must adhere to the guidelines within a five-year period. Any organization found in violation of the debt service rule can be subject to one of 16 disciplinary options, the most extreme requiring a suspension of ownership and management.

No details on how the Dodgers will reduce their mountain of debt have been released, but neither club ownership nor MLB commissioner Rob Manfred appears overly concerned about the team’s ability to compete for another NL West title while cutting their expenses.

I think the Dodgers will be in a position that they can comply with our expectations in terms of the debt service rule, without any dramatic alteration in the kind of product they have been putting on the field,” Manfred said.

Mitt Romney’s sons are trying to buy a stake in the Yankees

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 30:  Tagg Romney son of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives an interview during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC which will conclude today.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:

The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.

The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.

I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.

In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.

Max Scherzer still can’t throw fastballs

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals works against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth inning during game five of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.

The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.

Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.