The Myth Of The Unlimited Payroll

I’ve already been wrong before about the Dodgers ownership and their willingness to spend. I figured they would be willing to open up the checkbook, but assumed they would stop short of the luxury tax, much like the Yankees have tried to do in recent years. Instead? They have blown that limit away and now project to enter 2013 with the highest payroll in MLB history.

As such, I understand when analysts and fans cite an unlimited payroll and assume the Dodgers could acquire anybody at any time. After all, who besides Steve Dilbeck legitimately thought the Adrian Gonzalez/Carl Crawford/Josh Beckett deal was remotely realistic, much less likely? Still, what I find disturbing is this new rhetoric going around where the Dodgers have so much money to blow that payroll efficiency and management has now been rendered unnecessary.

Not only are they assuming that the Dodgers have an unlimited payroll, which is a significant assumption in itself, but also that the lack of payroll restrictions will exist for an indefinite amount of time far into the future.

If that were true though, then why not seriously go out and sign Zack Greinke, Hiroki Kuroda, Anibal Sanchez, Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, and Mike Napoli?

Oh you’re just being facetious.

No, I’m being dead serious. If there literally was no limit to the wealth, then why not? All of the mentioned players would help upgrade the current roster, would they not? So if money isn’t an object, just designate players to clear room and sign them all. Then offer Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig, and Zach Lee plus their entire contracts to the Mets for David Wright and then re-sign him for 10 years.

The reason why you’re probably saying that I’m nuts right now is because you know in reality that the payroll isn’t actually unlimited, we just haven’t seen what it is yet. As such, I stick with my assumption that there is a cap in mind and that it still needs to be managed on some level. The higher payroll provides the advantage of being able to fill holes with elite players in case the farm system is bereft of them, as the team is able to absorb the risk that other teams cannot. However, while overpays are to be expected in certain cases, what exactly is the point of overpaying average players?

Like on the Brandon League deal I see a lot of people going with the logic of “yeah, he’s not worth that much, but the payroll is unlimited anyway”. Well where would be your limit? I fail to understand where people would draw the line in these cases. Why not five years and $40 million? What difference does it make under the unlimited payroll logic? Five years and $75 million? There’s no end to it, really.

The rationale just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s the same train of thought as “well he’s better than James Loney” or “well he’s better than Juan Uribe”.


It’s a $200 million team, at what point does that stop being an excuse?

Now I understand that the instinct is to be optimistic, especially coming off the Frank McCourt ownership. I get it, perhaps more than most do, but I also feel that because there’s been no consequences for the team’s actions as of yet, people are getting way too deep into the forest made out of money to see the trees. It’s as if reality has been temporarily suspended and we all moved to this fairy tale land where spending money inefficiently has no consequences. And here I am, with my hand meekly raised, simply inquiring when that has EVER been true in baseball.

Then again, that’s just the conservative approach to things, and the Dodgers have blown past my assumptions before.

About Chad Moriyama