As the days leading up to the beginning of spring training dwindle, two huge things stay fresh in the minds of Dodgers fans—the recent signing of righty pitcher Trevor Bauer and the prospective return of veteran third baseman Justin Turner.
No question the Los Angeles payroll has already been debated heavily across the baseball blogosphere, but for the sake of discussion here, the biggest question right now is whether the Dodgers will blow past the 2021 Luxury Tax Threshold or limit the amount of extra money they must pay back to the league.
Theoretically, there’s still time for the Dodgers to sneak back under the threshold, but chances of that happening are quite slim. Seemingly, about the only way for that to happen is for the team to conduct a series of trades, resulting in the elimination of some of the bigger contracts. There have been some whispers that the club might be shopping David Price to offset salary, but it would surely take a lot more than a Price trade to get the Dodgers back under, if they are able to find a taker for the veteran lefty.
Based on the way other teams have been spending and constructing their respective budgets, finding a trade partner for Price, Jansen, or Kelly will be difficult, even if Los Angeles were to include an attractive prospect or two. Just to give you an idea as to where an assortment of other teams stand regarding payroll, the Pirates are estimated at around $55.7 million this year, which is less than the combined 2021 salaries of Bauer and Jansen alone.
The Rays, who captured the 2020 American League pennant, are projected to spend just over $79 million on team payroll in 2021.
The Yankees, who are notoriously known as a big-spending club, are currently estimated at a $202.4 million payroll, which is still about $8 million under the threshold.
Adding Bauer’s 2021 salary to the mix, the Dodgers are currently at $239.6 million—almost $30 million over.
Clubs are taxed 20 percent if they exceed the $210 million threshold. Should a team go over the threshold by more than $20 million, and additional 12 percent surtax is added, which is where the Dodgers currently sit. If a team exceeds the threshold by more than $40 million, it is taxed at a whopping 42.5% rate. All these numbers are based on first offenders, which the Dodgers are after resetting back in 2018.
Anyway, should the Dodgers add another $11 million in payroll, the team will be subject to the highest tax bracket for the upcoming year, which would apparently be the case if they decided to bring back Turner.
Personally, I was one of those fans who believed the team would not go over the threshold in 2021, but still find a way to bring back Turner by creating salary space through a trade. However, with Bauer now in the picture, it’s tough to guess what might happen. Of course, the team has given no hints as to which direction it might go with Turner, particularly after signing Bauer. The last we heard was that JT preferred a four-year deal while the Dodgers were not willing to go past two years.
On one hand, some think that since the club already surpassed the initial threshold, it shouldn’t be an issue tacking on more dollars to sign Turner. On the other hand, others believe the Dodgers might try to minimize their penalty by not signing Turner, perhaps even trying to offset more existing salary through a trade or two.
Conceivably, there are still many uncertainties surrounding the upcoming season with the pandemic still lingering. There have been no solid parameters set as far as fan attendance goes, which is one of the primary driving forces for team revenue. Even if attendance is regulated back to normalcy, it still doesn’t guarantee reasonable attendance from the extra-cautious fans, even for a team like the Dodgers.
The funny thing right now is that there’s even more suspense surrounding the team with the Bauer signing. Will the Dodgers go full throttle and bring back JT, elevating themselves into the highest possible tax bracket? Or will the team stand pat, giving fans the hint that it believes that a strong starting rotation supersedes the value of a formidable righty bat and a strong clubhouse presence?
In addition to the Dodgers, the Blue Jays and Brewers are among the teams showing interest in Turner.