Getty Images

The Dodgers need to cut payroll after reaching $1 billion in player spending

33 Comments

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.

Major League Baseball orders balls stored in climate controlled rooms for some reason

Getty Images
2 Comments

Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that Major League Baseball will mandate that teams store baseballs in “an air-conditioned and enclosed room[s]” this season. He adds that the league will install climate sensors in each room to measure temperature and humidity during the 2018 season, with such data being used to determine if humidors — like the ones being used in Colorado and Arizona — are necessary for 2019.

This move comes a year after Major League Baseball’s single season, league-wide home run record was shattered, with 6,105 dingers being hit. It also comes after a year in which two different studies — one by Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman for The Ringer, and another by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur — found evidence that baseballs were altered at some point around the middle of the 2015 season which coincided with home run numbers spiking in the middle of that year, quite suddenly.

Also coming last year: multiple player complaints about the baseball seeming different, with pitchers blaming a rash of blister problems stemming from what they believed to be lower seams on the baseballs currently in use than those in use in previous years. Players likewise complained about unusually smooth and/or juiced baseballs during the World Series, which some believe led to a spike of home runs in the Fall Classic.

To date, Major League Baseball has steadfastly denied that the balls are a problem, first issuing blatantly disingenuous denials,  and later using carefully chosen words to claim nothing was amiss. Specifically, Major League Baseball claimed that the balls were within league specifications but failed to acknowledge that league specifications are wide enough to encompass baseballs which could have radically different flight characteristics while still, technically, being within spec.

Based on Verducci’s report, it seems that MLB is at least past the denial stage and is attempting to understand and address the issues about which many players have complained and which have, without question, impacted offense in the game:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that MLB commissioned a research project after last season to study the composition, storage and handling of the baseballs. He said that investigation is not yet completed. “I’m not at the point to jump that gun right now,” he said about the findings.

The investigation is not yet completed, but the fact that the league is now ordering changes in the manner in which balls are handled before use suggests to me that the league has learned that there is at least something amiss about the composition or manufacture of the baseballs.

Major League Baseball is a lot of things, but quick to impose costs and changes of process on its clubs like this is not one of them. There is likely a good reason for it.