The billion dollar solution: how the Dodgers’ historic spending spree could revive baseball

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Issy Chalmers/The Occidental

For generations, people have fantasized about the assembly of a super team. From the Greek gods congregating on Mount Olympus to the formation of Marvel’s Avengers, it’s safe to say that the idea of a super team in some medium has crossed most people’s minds at least once. For thousands of years, such ideas have existed as pure speculation, an epic pipe dream that ultimately never leaves the mind. After all, it’s so unrealistic — who could possibly have the means to assemble the absolute best of the best under one roof?

The LA Dodgers just made that dream a reality. And they did so in mere months.

If you haven’t been living in an underground fallout shelter for the last four or so years, chances are quite high that you’ve heard the name Shohei Ohtani. After much deception and many widespread rumors surrounding the international sensation, the two-time AL MVP and perennial All Star signed a 10-year, $700 million contract with our hometown LA Dodgers.

This is far and away the largest contract in the history of the MLB. While this deal may seem backbreaking on the Dodgers’ end, they’ve used incomprehensible financial trickery to structure it in a team-friendly way. Using a series of ridiculous deferrals, Ohtani will receive just $2 million a year from 2024-2033, coming to a grand total of merely $20 million during that span, a steal for one of the statistically greatest and most talented players in history. By structuring Ohtani’s contract in this manner, Dodgers ownership can avoid paying Ohtani his fortune until after his contract expires.

The immediate future may be bleak in the accounting department, as Ohtani will be due a grandiose $680 million to be paid out from 2034-2043. Though coffers will have to be pillaged eventually, Ohtani’s meager $2 million starting salary gives the team much leeway for additional improvements. Ohtani himself vouched for this selfless contract structure, as it provides the team with ample financial freedom to pursue the hope of bringing a World Series trophy back to LA.

These improvements are already arriving in droves. Free agent outfielder Teoscar Hernandez has also taken his talents to the City of Angels on a one-year, $23.5 million deal. A one-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger award winner, the powerful righty will seek to replace some of the pop generated last year by J.D. Martinez, who is expected to leave LA this offseason.

Promising young hurler Tyler Glasnow has also inked a deal with the Dodgers, coming across the country via trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Glasnow also immediately signed his life away, agreeing to a hefty five-year, $135 million extension, which is quite a large sum considering Glasnow’s extensive injury history. If talent is any indication, however, Glasnow’s deal could be yet another boon to the Dodgers’ star-studded player pool.

Perhaps LA’s most impressive addition came in the form of Japanese flamethrower Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Though those unacquainted with Japanese baseball may not have understood why the Dodgers chose to break the bank for a player with zero MLB innings, one look at Yamamoto’s track record will quickly quell all suspicions. In six seasons for Nippon Professional Baseball’s (Japan’s MLB equivalent) Orix Buffaloes, Yamamoto turned the Japanese record books into a personal autograph session, winning three straight triple crowns, Sawamura Awards (Japan’s Cy Young equivalent) and Pacific League MVP awards from 2021-2023. If this dominance continues, Yamamoto’s substantial 12-year, $325 million contract could look like a bargain in a few years. Despite his lack of MLB experience, scouts around the league believe that Yamamoto’s immense talent should translate into MLB success.

What makes the Dodgers’ fervent, borderline gratuitous spending so fascinating is that the strategy runs directly counter to the current financial modus operandi that MLB teams have been using for over two decades. When the 2002 Oakland A’s won 103 games on a mere $39.7 million payroll, their success was attributed to general manager Billy Beane’s “Moneyball” strategy, an analytical approach to baseball that uses advanced statistics to find the most cost-effective players to build a winning team.

While Beane’s strategy was initially hailed as a brilliant blueprint for small market teams to succeed, the strategy would soon be co-opted by big market franchises looking to cut budgets and squeeze as many wins out of cheap players as possible. After two decades, it’s become abundantly clear that such an undertaking is easier said than done.

To the chagrin of fans, the implementation of Moneyball has turned once-exciting baseball off-seasons into utter snoozefests. Gone are the days of teams dolling out massive contracts to undeserving players for the hell of it. Nowadays, we get to watch billionaire owners cry poor and smarmy Yale-graduate general managers babble about “sabermetrics” and other such buzzwords as they dive through baseball’s proverbial dumpsters for players who are often downright terrible. If you’d like to know how two decades of Moneyball affects your average fan, feel free to ask your local Reds or Rockies fanatic how they feel about their team this season. Oh wait, you can’t do that because they don’t exist.

The Dodgers have chosen to forgo this stingy analytical methodology in favor of a more risky, yet grandiose and exhilarating approach.

The Dodgers rejecting the spending precedence of Moneyball in favor of bolder financial strategies isn’t occurring on a whim. This creative, new big-market method could pave the way for other wealthy franchises to operate in the future.

With these new deals in place, the team is primed to rake in huge margins of profit this season. Thanks to the additions of Yamamoto and Ohtani, the team has essentially bought themselves an entire country’s worth of fans in one offseason. Ohtani is likely the most beloved man in Japan. He quite literally has his own show on Japanese television entirely consisting of shots of him sitting in the dugout between innings.

With the introduction of an entire country’s market, the Dodgers will certainly have numerous Japanese ads throughout the stadium. The team is also sure to secure massive TV contracts and increase jersey sales — the combination of which will lead to a formula that maximizes profits. With both domestic and international interest in the Dodgers at an all-time high, a seemingly costly operation will be greatly mitigated by these aforementioned money-making factors. With this historic offseason, the Dodgers have successfully created a product interesting enough to entice even those who would normally disregard baseball as a whole. This upcoming season should compel LA residents to put their hard-earned money into this glamorous on-field product.

This Dodgers team may transcend the game itself and become a cultural spectacle – one that is sure to leave a permanent mark on America’s pastime.

Contact Mac Ribner at ribner@oxy.edu and Ben Petteruti at petteruti@oxy.edu

3 COMMENTS

  1. Would be curious your thoughts on expanding this theory to the Mets (spent a lot) and Red Sox (forgot how to spend)

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