Los Angeles Dodgers Owner and Front Office Welcomes Shohei Ohtani

Getty Los Angeles Dodgers Owner and Front Office Welcomes Shohei Ohtani

It’s that time of year when you might find yourself mired in the doldrums of your team’s disappointing season. If this is indeed the case, how about an entertaining MLB poll as a diversion?

The Athletic released this year’s edition of their annual MLB Players Poll, and the June 10, 2024 article is chock-full of interesting topics and responses.

For this piece, we’ll highlight the question many players, owners, pundits, and fans have pondered: “Was the Dodgers’ offseason spending good for the game?” (One of 12 topics presented in the Player Poll). Here’s how they structured the survey.

According to The Athletic, they polled  “more than 100 players — almost evenly split between the American and National Leagues — across 18 teams and granted them anonymity to get their unfiltered takes on some of the biggest and most controversial storylines in baseball.”

As you can probably guess, the responses covered the full spectrum.

The $1.4 Billion Spree of All Sprees

The baseball universe watched as Los Angeles Dodgers owner and chairman Mark Walter, president and CEO Stan Kasten, and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman unleashed a can of never before seen whoop butt on everything we thought we knew about big-market spending.

Handing out long-term contracts like Halloween candy, the Dodger Blue inked Japanese stars Shohei Ohtani (10 years), Yoshinobu Yamamoto (12 years), and catcher Will Smith (10 years). In addition, they signed Teoscar Hernandez and took on Tyler Glasnow (new five-year contract) via trade with the Tampa Bay Rays.

All told it was a maze of unique deferments and creative financing. To that end, the reactions surrounding the Dodgers’ ground-breaking offseason made for some entertaining feedback.

Those in the Yea Category

Let’s examine some of the comments from those with a positive reaction.

“Of course. I loved it. They got the best team money could buy.”

“The numbers are outrageous, but I bet the Dodgers are already halfway through making that back in what (Ohtani) is for the game. I think it’s cool with him and Yamamoto.”

“It makes the Dodgers must-see TV and everyone plays the Dodgers, so that’s good for everybody.”

“Yes, absolutely great for the game. People like box office-type stuff.”

“Good for players and good for the game if the right team does it. The game needs the Dodgers, the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Braves, now the Astros. But when you have that, it really makes those matchups interesting. So is everybody complaining and saying, ‘They’re just buying their championship’? Not really. Because we’ve proven that the Rays can win, the Yankees can lose.”

The latter makes a good point about “buying championships” and we’ll touch on that in a bit. Also, part of me wonders if that last comment wasn’t Randy Arozarena incognito.

From the Nay Side of Things

The main gripe seems to center around kicking so many financial cans down the road while enjoying the benefits now.

“We’ll have a documentary about that in the next few years. But the deferred money, (that) I don’t agree with. I think they should have to pay right now while he’s playing. I just think it’s a loophole. It’s not even their money, (president of baseball operations Andrew) Friedman’s money or the owner’s right now.”

“I think that $700 million should apply toward some kind of luxury tax, I’m not sure if it applies on the backend. Granted, Ohtani is a unicorn, and you have to pull all types of strings to accommodate that kind of contract, but that was the first thing I thought about.”

“I want to say good … but not good.”

“Don’t think it was. I just think other teams should be able to spend like that. I feel like the Dodgers are always the team that can get all the best players in the world.”

There are no ceilings in baseball other than those that are self-imposed and make sound financial sense for the owner(s), his or her market, and corresponding revenue streams. This being the case, some franchises could commit to fielding a better perennial roster—within reason that is.

And a Little Dose of Reality

“It’s good for baseball, and any team could have done it.”

“It should be a mark for all owners.”

While that’s a novel thought, the Dodgers’ spree carries an inherent risk of becoming an albatross if the ROI doesn’t include at least one championship in the immediate future. Since this is unchartered waters and what many call exploiting loopholes, all eyes will be on the Dodgers’ front office and the impending results.

Truth be told that model is not sustainable for a good portion of the league with smaller markets and revenue from TV, etc. Along those lines, perhaps a payroll minimum would be more valuable to the league and increase competitiveness rather than owners forced to spend foolishly while trying to buy a World Series contender. With good development, the reliance on pricey free agents dwindles.

Remember, the Dodgers haven’t won a full-season championship since 1988 and the Yankees have one World Series title in the past 23 years. As this anonymous player expressed, there’s always a chance things will go south.

“That’s what makes baseball beautiful. Those guys spend $1 billion and will still get swept in the first round.”

Tou​ché !!!

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