This will be somewhat unusual for me, as generally I am an extremely unapologetic pro-FAZ supporter, and I still am. But to critically examine any operation, personal biases need to be thrown out, even when it comes to the Dodgers.
Sports team owners do not get into the game for short term profits. The big profits come when the team is sold. For the Dodgers, the ownership group has seen their $2B investment climb to $3B in 6 years. That is a pretty good return. Even with that increase, the operating statements are also positive. Per an April 2018 Forbes article, here are a few dashboard points from the 2017 financials:
Gate Receipts – $188M
Total Revenue – $522M
Player Expenses – $261M
Operating Income – $68M
Debt to Value Ratio – 14%
It does not appear that the team is experiencing much of a financial stranglehold even after the horrendous player salaries that FAZ inherited. FAZ did a great job of getting under the luxury tax. But that only makes sense if in fact they plan to bid on Bryce Harper. Signing Kershaw should not be a financial or luxury tax issue. Kershaw already has a $30M luxury tax hit for the next two years. So adding another $5M will not take them over the limit. Will they have to overpay and incur some years where his WAR will not justify the salary? I am sure, but he is Clayton Kershaw and he deserves to retire as a Dodger. They lose Forsythe and Grandal salaries next year, and Kemp and Hill the year after. Can they add Harper without going over the luxury tax next year? Probably not, but so what. With the loss of Kemp and Hill after 2019 they should be able to get back under even with Kershaw and Harper.
The Red Sox did not let the luxury tax bother them. Even with the Pablo and Hanley contracts, they still signed pitchers Rick Porcello and David Price. They are in the middle of an 8 year $110M Dustin Pedroia contract. They traded for high priced reliever Craig Kimbrel. This year they signed Mitch Moreland and inked a $100M+ contract for JDM. Their luxury tax is north of $235M, and I do not get the impression that they care. Make a mistake? Okay move on and get somebody else. They were also NOT worried one bit about moving the overall #1 baseball prospect (Yoan Moncada), their #1 pitching prospect (Michael Kopech), a top ten BoSox CF prospect (Luis Alexander Basabe), and a lottery pick reliever (Victor Diaz) for Chris Sale. And now they are 13-2 atop the AL East. After a slow start, JDM is starting to hit and Mitch Moreland now has 4 HR’s. I like their 2018 chances.
The Dodgers were seen as a likely trade partner for Chris Sale at the trade deadline in 2016. I do not know what or if any players were ever agreed upon, but I do know that the one player the White Sox coveted and was told was not available was Julio Urias. At the 2016 trade deadline, the Dodgers would not let him go. We will never know whether Bellinger or Verdugo or Alvarez were ever discussed. But IMO, with Chris Sale the Dodgers do not trade for Rich Hill in 2016, and maybe not Darvish at the 2017 deadline, and I think they win the WS in 2017; maybe 2016. Could they have made the trade for Sale if Urias was included? I doubt that we will ever know.
The Nationals are over the luxury tax limit at $204M, but will lose Murphy, Gio, and Wieters after this year, and their $35M+ salary. That should be plenty for them to re-sign Harper and maybe Keuchel to replace Gio. We know they will not be outbid for Harper. They are not afraid to spend. So it will come down to who does Harper want to play for…Cubs, Dodgers, Nats, Giants, or Yankees? It will undoubtedly be one of those 5. None of the Cubs, Giants, or Yankees will be shy about spending. With Pence and McCutchen off payroll, the Giants will definitely be in the hunt for Harper. With Bryce Harper as his best friend, I am sure that Kris Bryant will be in Theo’s ear to go out and get Bryce. If the Dodgers draw the proverbial line in the sand with a max price, they will lose out on Harper.
FAZ has been brilliant at building teams for the 162 game season and re-building the farm system. They uncover nuggets like no other front office. But they just do not seem get that difference maker either by chance or choice. I am as big of a fan of the Dodger farm system as there is, and I cannot count the number of prospects and non-prospects who become my favorites. But I am not naïve, and I know that the likelihood of these players wearing LA Dodger Blue are not great. I like Alex Verdugo, but right now he is blocked. Will he develop enough power to be a corner OF? What about Henry Ramos? Andrew Toles? Both blocked (and not by Joc). Yusniel Diaz isn’t even on a team right now. Why? Are Manny Banuelos and Zach Neal blocking the development of Yadier Alvarez and or Mitchell White? Is C.C. Lee or Brian Schlitter blocking Josh Sborz? Do the Dodgers hold on to RHP or OF until their value drops down to Zach Lee and Trayce Thompson levels? How many utility players do the Dodgers need? I think my point is, is that FAZ has done a great job of building a diverse team of replaceable players and the resultant depth, but have not yet acquired that big difference maker. Are the value of some of their excess capable of putting a package together to get that special player?
I was pushing for Gerrit Cole at the last trade deadline and during the off-season. Not everyone agreed. The Pirates did get some quality players, but the Astros did not have to give up their best, so it is doubtful that Walker Buehler would have been a deal breaker. Alex Verdugo? No doubt. Ross Stripling or Brock Stewart? Absolutely. Mitchell White? Pedro Baez (as a Michael Feliz). Add a lottery pick. Would Verdugo, Stripling or Stewart, White, Baez, lottery pick OF be enough to offset, a Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Michael Feliz, and Jason Martin offer for Cole? Cole was not situated in the Astros rotation as their Ace, but he is pitching like one. He is #3 behind Keuchel and Verlander.
But the Cole ship has sailed, and we must move on. Maybe Sunday’s game will kick off something positive for LAD, and they can get back to the top with the DBacks. Taijuan Walker just went on the DL and could be a potential TJ surgery candidate with “severe” forearm soreness. The DBacks just do not have the depth to lose a mid-rotation pitcher like Walker. Let’s assume that the Dodgers do get back to the top and will need that difference maker in July. The DBacks will certainly be in on the trade deadline, and they will be looking for that difference maker. What will FAZ do this time?