Thoughts on Dodgers Re-Signing Justin Turner, Salary Cap Notes

jTurner
(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Before the weekend began, there was quite a bit of news circulating about the Los Angeles Dodgers. The organization landed several of the best international prospects on the market while a few of the arbitration-eligible players settled their respective contracts for the upcoming season. Two other players—pitchers Pedro Baez and Alex Wood—landed contracts with perhaps two of the franchise’s biggest rivals.

Additionally, there were whispers on Friday morning that the Dodgers were close to landing a deal with Justin Turner.

For as much as fans would like to see Turner return, there are some potential complications that might be holding up a deal, at least to a small degree. First and foremost, there is the seemingly imposing Luxury Tax Threshold, which the team will not surpass at all costs, especially when considering the financial hit the organization took last year due to the pandemic.

There’s no arguing that a Turner deal would be priceless. From the clubhouse to the community to his performance on the field, there are few MLB players who are more complete. In last Wednesday’s Inside the Dodgers newsletter, J.P. Hoornstra of the OC Register makes probably the best case that I’ve seen for Los Angeles to re-sign the 36-year-old veteran. (If you don’t subscribe to the free newsletter, I highly recommend it, as it would be well worth your time.)

Presently, the Dodgers’ estimated luxury tax payroll for the upcoming season is just over $206 million, according to a detailed worksheet at Fangraphs. The chart shows all pertinent information related to the payroll, including the most recent arbitration-related settlements. This is about $4 million shy of the $210 million cap, the point where the team would get hit with the initial round of penalties should it go over.

Obviously, this doesn’t give the team much room to make many more significant player additions for 2021 while still staying under the cap—specifically Turner, or even someone like Kirby Yates, who Ian discussed in detail in his column on Saturday.

Nevertheless, that does not mean that Turner is out. Front-office boss Andrew Friedman and his troops could specifically work out some type of player trade to adjust the payroll. With about four weeks still to go before the commencement of spring training, there is still plenty of time for more deals to be made.

Regardless, here are three possible scenarios outlining how things might currently stand between JT and the organization with regards to a new deal.

THERE’S ALREADY AN AGREEMENT IN PLACE

With all the reporting we’ve heard that a deal is close, there might be a possibility that both sides have reached a prospective agreement, at least in theory. There could be a chance that the team is waiting for a trade to happen— a deal that reduces payroll—before things become official.

There have been some suggestions that the Dodgers could potentially move some of their most burdensome salaries to clear space, specifically in the form of the $20 million owed to Kenley Jansen and the $8.3 million owed to Joe Kelly.

kenley-jansen-joe-kelly
(Jon SooHoo)

However, based on how some rival clubs have been handling their money so far, chances of another team absorbing the salaries of Jansen and Kelly are slim, particularly when considering the inconsistencies of both players in recent years. Still, if both Turner’s camp and the Dodgers are in agreement, it should not be overly difficult to finalize a deal—it just might take a little time. Trade possibilities are always endless.

BOTH SIDES ARE AT AN IMPASSE

Another possibility is that both Turner and the Dodgers might be at an impasse as far as negotiations go. This doesn’t mean that there’s not interest, it just means that either party is not willing to budge from their contract demands—for now, anyway. All indications show that in a perfect world, Turner would like to land a four-year deal, while some reports have revealed that the Dodgers are not willing to go beyond two years.

What’s interesting is that if the Universal DH is incorporated for the upcoming season, it might mean the Dodgers would consider changing their stance on Turner with regards to contract length. It seems like a match made in heaven, but there may be a ton of red tape involved in a final decision, as some pundits feel that owners could be using the Universal DH rule as a bargaining chip while they push for another expanded postseason in 2021.

NEITHER SIDE IS CLOSE

Maybe all the reports are inaccurate, and neither side is close on reaching a deal. If the team is unable to land Turner, perhaps the Los Angeles managers and coaches are content on starting the season with Edwin Rios at the hot corner, creating a potential left/righty-hitting platoon scenario with somebody like Chris Taylor or Zach McKinstry. In a not-so-ideal world, Max Muncy could handle the duties at third, should a situation present a need.

Conceivably, there could be a trade in the works for somebody like Kris Bryant of the Cubs, despite his apparent gradual defensive decline. Another option mentioned by José a few weeks back was Eugenio Suarez of the Reds. Furthermore, as we have seen in recent seasons, perhaps the team will wait until the 2021 summer trade deadline to evaluate its needs, then upgrade accordingly. This would give the team ample time to evaluate Rios, in addition to providing more of a window to decide if Kody Hoese is indeed the Dodgers’ third baseman of the future.

10 thoughts on “Thoughts on Dodgers Re-Signing Justin Turner, Salary Cap Notes

  1. I would be very surprised if AF starts the season with Rios as the every day third baseman.
    Muncy is not a third baseman so if he winds up there we have a problem.
    If Lux had already proven himself last year, the gamble of using Rios as the regular third baseman wouldn’t be all that terrible, but if you plan to start the season with half of your infielders unproven and plan to beat out the Padres, that’s not a great strategy.

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  2. Geez…why is every column mentions the CBT and the Dodgers being afraid to exceed it? Yes we’re coming of a financially disaster of a season, but (1) They won the World Series, (2) They sell more merchandise than [almost} every other team (3) They have the SportsNet TV deal that was for $8.35 Billion over 25 years. My Calculator tells me that pays the team $334 million per year. It all must be relative if that is considered a financial hardship – the kind of hardship every other team in MLB would like to have.

    I presume then that cash flow is not an issue and if they exceed the CBT this year a lot of money is coming off the books next year for them to duck under it.

    I figured JT has a “demand” for 4 years just to see if he can get it. If so – good for him. My belief is it is a strategy to keep him on the market until he can circle back to the Dodgers once the DH is agreed to for 2021. They will eventually settle on a 3 year contract.

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  3. Yes Jeff, having Lux and Rios, both starting this season would be a huge gamble, I don’t see it happening I think we will have someone starting at third, other than Rios. Whether that means we go over the cap, or AF figures out how to stay under the cap, they should have someone at third that is not yet on the roster.

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  4. As of right now, no team in MLB is over the CBT threshold. Yankees got very creative signing LeMahieu for six years at a lower AAV, longer than I heard rumored anywhere, in an attempt to stay under the CBT. Today only the Dodgers and Yankees are close to hitting the CBT threshold. Both teams would like to do more shopping before the season begins. What will happen? I think EXTREME bargain hunting.

    Are the Dodgers hurting financially? I have to think 2020 was a huge hit to the Dodger finances. Sure they won the World Series, but they weren’t able to sell hardly any expensive tickets. That hurt. As B.Drake pointed out above, they signed a very lucrative TV contract several years ago at $334M/yr. But that was for a 162 game season, was that amount prorated or worse? I’d have to think so, that hurts. And it’s easy to forget Dodgers spent about $100M upgrading Dodger Stadium prior to the 2020 season, not much of a payback on that investment yet either. Yeah, I think Dodgers and everyone else in MLB is hurting.

    We all want Justin Turner back at a “reasonable” salary. But even if the Dodgers get Turner to sign a longer contract at a lower AAV, Dodgers will be over the CBT threshold and that type of contract also feels like a borrowing from Peter to pay Paul type of move. Fortunately, Dodgers have only a few overpriced contracts, but nobody is going to take those guys in trade, unless we take on a bigger problem from them. Yeah, we want Turner back, but I don’t think Friedman is playing games on the two years, he needs a bargain.

    Happily, Rios and Lux aren’t the only in house possibilities for 2nd and 3rd next season. Lots of possibilities, but those two could be awesome.

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    1. Boxout7, our perspectives are very similar. Unlike some fans, I just cannot find any logic for the Dodgers to go over the threshold in 2021. What would be the reason, unless they could conceivably stumble upon a player who would dramatically improve the franchise for many, many years down the road? Turner certainly brings a ton of cohesion to the team dynamic, but I don’t think he’s worth going over for. Nevertheless, if Friedman really wants Turner back, and they can get close on terms, I think Andrew can get creative enough to still squeeze in JT while staying under the cap.

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      1. Yes, I agree our perspectives are very similar.

        I’m curious what is your professional background? Me, I’ve worked for a lot of rich people in my professional life. It’s easy to think, “they have so much money what does it matter”. But I’ve never met ONE rich person who thought, it didn’t matter, when it came to their money. I don’t think it’s greed, just human nature. One basic human trait when it comes to money we all share to some extent, we’d like to have more. It’s all relative.

        I don’t know what Friedman/Dodgers will do regarding signing anyone else, except, It’s got to make sense business wise.

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  5. Baseball moves still not happening a lot. Some previously announced signings finalized as teams unload players to clear roster space. Kyle Garlick was DFA’d today for exactly that reason, opening up a spot for recently signed Archie Bradley. Dodgers supposedly still looking at Marcus Semien if Turner is not resigned. Makes some sense, he could also back up Seager at SS. No matter what, the Dodgers would also have to DFA someone. And there is a report they are still in on Yates. I have no idea if AF stays under the CBT or what, but going over for only a year, is not going to be that big of a penalty. As of yet, they have not countered any of SD’s moves, and they have retained only 1/4 of theirs. Trienen and Nelson. And they are seriously over loaded from the left side hitting wise. All of their infielders are lefty hitters.

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