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Volume 24 No. 179
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Dodgers Reset Luxury-Tax Payroll In Trade With Braves, Freeing Money Up For '18 Free Agency

The Dodgers' multiplayer trade with the Braves on Saturday was an "unforeseen move that resets the organization's luxury-tax payroll," according to Andy McCullough of the L.A. TIMES. The Dodgers "reacquired" OF Matt Kemp in exchange for 1B Adrian Gonzalez, Ps Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir and SS Charlie Culberson. Penalized for the past five seasons for luxury-tax violations, the Dodgers "sought financial relief and flexibility" for after the '18 season, when P Clayton Kershaw could "join a star-studded class of free agents" that includes Nationals RF Bryce Harper, Orioles 3B Manny Machado, Indians P Andrew Miller and Red Sox P Craig Kimbrel. As five-time offenders, the Dodgers were "penalized 50% for every dollar spent above the threshold" in '17. By getting under $197M for '18, the Dodgers would "reset the penalty, and only be penalized 20% on every dollar above the threshold" in '19. Before the trade, the Dodgers' luxury-tax payroll was "projected" at $205.5M (L.A. TIMES, 12/17). Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said, "It's a necessary, strategic part of moves yet to come." The deal "made sense for the Braves, too, since the players they acquired all have expiring contracts." Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos said, "It puts us in an even greater financial position going forward" (ESPN.com, 12/16).

EYE TOWARD THE FUTURE: In L.A., Bill Shaikin cited a source as saying that the team was assessed a $36.2M tax this year, based on a season-ending payroll of $253.6M. Along with a reported $50M payout for each MLB team from the sale of BAMTech to Disney, the Dodgers "could have" close to $100M for a shopping spree next winter (L.A. TIMES, 12/17). In N.Y., Joel Sherman noted the Yankees re-signed P CC Sabathia to a one-year, $10M deal on the same day as the Dodgers-Braves trade, and the signing makes the team "better positioned" for getting under the luxury-tax threshold for '18 (N.Y. POST 12/17). On Long Island, David Lennon wrote Yankees Senior VP & GM Brian Cashman's "mission to improve on last season's remarkable run" -- while getting under the luxury-tax threshold -- "could not be going any better" (NEWSDAY, 12/17). In L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote the Dodgers are "so deep they can dump a fan favorite, two serviceable starting pitchers and an important utility guy in order to start clearing the decks." The Dodgers "didn't immediately improve themselves" for '18 in this trade, but they have "plenty of time and few holes to fill in bridging that nine-inning gap between them and a championship" (L.A. TIMES, 12/17).

RICH GETTING RICHER: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale wrote the Dodgers-Braves trade "sets the stage" for what "promises to be the greatest free-agent frenzy" in MLB history next winter. It will be the "financial kingpins" -- the Cubs, Yankees and Dodgers -- who will "have pockets full of money and no luxury tax to burden them" (USATODAY.com, 12/16). ESPN.com's Keith Law wrote under the header, "Money Matters Most In The Dodgers-Braves Kemp Trade" (ESPN.com, 12/16). SI.com's Jon Tayler wrote the money saved is a "terrifying prospect for the league, with the great majority of teams already completely unable to match the Dodgers and Yankees." All of that is "bad news for the players, especially mid-tier free agents." The overall MLB product is "weakened when teams refuse to spend or make moves solely to avoid financial penalties or turn a bigger profit" (SI.com, 12/16). CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Axisa wrote any time clubs are not spending, alarm bells "should be going off" at MLBPA HQ. MLB is "flush with cash, and that cash is not yet going to the players" (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/16). THE RINGER's Ben Lindbergh wrote under the header, "The Dodgers Are Bringing NBA-Style Trades To MLB." It is "tempting to say that the trade was barely about baseball," but it "tells us more about baseball's current competitive ecology than other moves with more immediate on-field implications" (THERINGER.com, 12/17).