SBD/January 17, 2014/Franchises

Dodgers' Payroll Likely To Surpass Last Year's $237M After Kershaw's Extension

Some believe deals like Kershaw's are creating unrest among small-market teams
The Dodgers "have a very good chance to eclipse" last season's payroll of $236.9M after signing P Clayton Kershaw to a record seven-year, $215M extension on Wednesday, according to J.P. Hoornstra of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. The Kershaw deal brings Guggenheim Baseball Management's total approved player contracts to "more than a billion dollars" since purchasing the team in April '12, including players "acquired via trade." The Dodgers are "expanding their team-record payroll higher each year, having blown through" MLB's $189M luxury-tax threshold "for the first time last year." The team has "already committed" at least $211M to 22 players for the '14 season. But Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten said, "I don't focus on payroll right now. I'm focused on building not just a team but an experience and a fanbase." Kasten "does not sound like a man intent on getting the Dodgers' payroll below any thresholds." He said, "I focus first and foremost on the product, on the team. The economics will work out over time. We don't look at (payroll) as a single snapshot. This is a long-term business. This is a long process of many different things" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/17). MLB Network's Kevin Millar said, "The Dodgers, obviously, are pushing the gas pedal all the way to the end and Clayton Kershaw is, no doubt, their priority” ("Intentional Talk," MLB Network, 1/16).

IS HE WORTH IT? L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said the Kershaw deal was a "great signing" by the Dodgers because he is "more than a pitcher and an arm to the Dodgers." Plaschke: "He's a leader in the clubhouse, he's the face of the franchise, he's a sign to the fans than new ownership is committed to this team and this town" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 1/16). ABC's Matt Gutman said, "To Dodgers fans and fans of the game, a golden arm like Kershaw's is priceless" ("World News," ABC, 1/16). CBS's Jim Rome said, “If you’re going to pay it to somebody, you’re going to pay it to a franchise and a solid guy like that." But SI’s Jim Trotter said, “It sets the foundation for future deals when you have elite players. To me, now it only goes up from there and it escalates. I understand the Dodgers print money down in their basement with their TV deal out there, but still, I’m not giving up that kind of money” (“Rome,” CBSSN, 1/16). ESPN's Jemele Hill said "no player is worth the money" the Dodgers are paying Kershaw. However, ESPN's Michael Smith said, "This is a bargain if you ask me at $215 million, especially with the Dodgers' budget" ("Numbers Never Lie," ESPN2, 1/16).

HOW TV RUINED YOUR LIFE: ESPN.com's Buster Olney examined the impact around MLB under the header, "Winners And Losers Of Kershaw Deal." Olney's winners included "Casey Close, Jim Murray and the other agents at Excel Sports Management." The firm landed a "record deal for Kershaw" and they "also represent" Japanese P Masahiro Tanaka. Olney pointed to MLB labor peace as one of the losers in the deal, writing, "All of this is leading to growing unrest among small-market teams, and the uneasy peace between those clubs and big-market teams could be in jeopardy if the small-market clubs demand greater concessions" leading up to the next CBA (ESPN.com, 1/16). GRANTLAND's Jonah Keri wrote the "only losers" in the Kershaw deal are MLB's small-market teams. The money from MLB's national TV rights deal "is, in many ways, a boon to all." But the league "failed to anticipate the massive gulf that would develop between the have and have-not teams once the wealthiest clubs signed their new local deals." The Padres make $60M a year "from their TV contract," while the Dodgers make $340M. The notion that these two teams "compete every year in the same division is kind of insane, and the existing, outdated revenue-sharing structure isn't going to fix that" (GRANTLAND.com, 1/16).

FOREIGN RELATIONS: ESPN L.A.'s Mark Saxon examined why the Dodgers might pursue Tanaka and noted the team "dispatched a group of marketing executives to Asia this winter to drum up business, trying to capitalize on the fact" that Dodgers P Hyun-Jin Ryu "might be the biggest sports celebrity in South Korea." The team "would have similar opportunities in Japan" with Tanaka, despite the fact that he "wouldn't have the novelty factor for Japanese fans, who have seen plenty of players become major stars" in MLB. But Tanaka "would be the Next Big Thing, likely attracting 30 or 40 reporters to cover his every move." The Dodgers "are competing with the other West Coast teams to have the greatest brand penetration across the Pacific" (ESPNLA.com, 1/16).
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