The Los Angeles Dodgers open the season with a $253 million payroll, the largest in Major League Baseball and one of only two teams with a payroll over $200 million. However, a closer look shows that the Dodgers will not have $253 million worth of talent taking the field when the season starts and it shows why some teams still have a huge advantage over others.
Of the Dodgers’ $253 million in 2016 salaries, only $140 million (55%) is committed to players on the active, 25-man Opening Day roster. That leaves a whopping $113 million in salaries for players on the disabled list, key players in the minors, or former players now playing on other teams.
That $114 million is more than the entire payrolls for 14 teams.
Here is the full breakdown, based on data collected from Spotrac.
The biggest chunk is for players on the disabled list, inlcuding outfielder Andre Ethier ($18.0 million salary), pitcher Brett Anderson ($15.8 million), Brandon McCarthy ($12.5 million), and second baseman Howie Kendrick ($10.0 million). The Dodgers are also paying $23.7 million for players on other teams, including all $8.0 million of the 2016 salary for first baseman Michael Morse, who was traded to the Pirates last season with the Dodgers agreeing to pay most of his remaining salary.
That’s a ton of wasted money, and yet the Dodgers are still one of the favourites to win the World Series.
All of this illustrates the true advantage that large-revenue teams have over the rest of baseball. That is, it is not the talent on the field, but the ability to eschew unwanted players and to replace injured players.
For example, in the case of Ethier, most teams would have to replace him with a scrub off the bench or a minor leaguer making the league-mininum salary ($507,500). But the Dodgers are not most teams. They will replace Ethier with Carl Crawford, who is making $21 million this season and had lost his job to Ethier.
Clearly Crawford is not the player he used to be, but at a time when the Dodgers need a left fielder, it is nice to have a former MVP-calibre player just sitting around.