Mike Trout, the player with the most significant contract in baseball, does not play for the Dodgers. Neither does Bryce Harper, who has the second-biggest contract, nor Giancarlo Stanton, Gerrit Cole, Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Albert Pujols, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, etc., etc. In fact, the biggest financial obligation that the Dodgers have with any individual player is $46.6 million, owed to Clayton Kershaw for 2020 and 2021.
The Dodgers haven’t and won’t announce the details of Andrew Friedman’s newly signed contract, but based on his last deal and industry precedent, it’s likely that the Dodgers owe more money, as of this morning, to their head of baseball operations than to anybody in uniform.
But it would be misleading to say the Dodgers haven’t spent big money, or aren’t going to spend. Since Frank McCourt agreed to sell the franchise to the group headed by Guggenheim, L.A. has consistently had one of the largest — if not the largest — payrolls in the majors.
2013: $220 million (2nd)2014: $209 million (1st)2015: $272 million (1st)2016: $254 million (1st)2017: $226 million (1st)2018: $191 million (3rd)2019: $197 million (4th)
The Dodgers’ investments have paid off, with seven consecutive National League West championships and an average of about 96 wins — over 1,000 games of dominance. Their average margin in winning the West has been about nine games, and if you ask a lot of evaluators with other teams, they will tell you that the Dodgers have the best players, by far, and the most efficient organization.
But as every Dodgers fan and every Dodgers player is well aware, the team still hangs on the memory of Kirk Gibson’s miracle home run in 1988 because L.A. hasn’t won the World Series since. Just one championship would change the perception of what the Dodgers have accomplished since Friedman took over, and they’ve come so very close — falling in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series to the Astros, who were just hammered with penalties for illicit sign stealing, and losing to the Red Sox in ’18. They began the NL playoffs last fall as the favorites, but were beaten by the eventual champion Nationals in the divisional round.
They’ve worked to find the finishing pieces, whether it be the addition of the best available starting pitcher in the 2017 summer market (Yu Darvish) or the best position player before the 2018 trade deadline (Manny Machado).
The perception of a lot of Dodgers fans is that they haven’t gone all-in. Bill Plaschke wrote about this the other day, and spoke with club president Stan Kasten about it, and the biggest reason for that feeling is that under Friedman, they haven’t grabbed one of the mega-contract players. The most expensive players have landed elsewhere.
And you know what? That’s been a good thing for the Dodgers.