Dodgers have highest Opening Day payroll, no matter the accounting

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

A look at the differences in accounting for 2014 payroll between the Associated Press and True Blue LA, as illustrated by Alex Guerrero and a few others.

The Dodgers came out on top on Tuesday, with the largest projected opening day payroll per the Associated Press, the first team in 16 years not named the Yankees to lead MLB.

The Dodgers came in at $235 million, well ahead of the Yankees at $203 million. But that is still a long way off from the roughly $265 million they will pay in actual payouts in 2014.

Note: I haven't fully updated the payroll worksheet to include non-roster invitees Justin Turner and Chone Figgins, and I haven't added in the salaries for the pre-arbitration players like Dee Gordon and Paco Rodriguez, mostly because I don't have all those exact figures yet.

But those numbers aren't going to account for the large gap between the AP's accounting and mine, so a look at the details is needed. Per Ronald Blum in his AP report:

The AP's figures include salaries and prorated shares of signing bonuses and other guaranteed income for players on active rosters, disabled lists and the restricted list. For some players, parts of deferred money are discounted to reflect current values.

Payroll figures factor in adjustments for cash transactions in trades, signing bonuses that are the responsibility of the club agreeing to the contract, option buyouts, and termination pay for released players.

Zack Greinke comes in as the highest paid player in baseball in 2014. I have him at $29 million (his $24 million base salary plus $5 million of his signing bonus that was paid in February), while the AP says $28 million, and the explanation provides a glimpse into how each year's salaries are figured:

The pitcher has a $24 million salary in the second season of his $147 million, six-year contract, and because he can opt out of the deal after the 2015 season, baseball's accounting rules call for his $12 million signing bonus to be prorated over `the first three seasons.

What we find using this tactic is that the three largest differences are Clayton Kershaw, Alex Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarrena.

Kershaw signed a seven-year, $215 million contract in January, which included an $18 million signing bonus paid this year. His actual salary is $4 million in 2014, so while he will receive $22 million this year his AP-figured number is $7.6 million. Because Kershaw can opt out after five years, his bonus is spread across those five seasons, or $3.6 million per year. Like Greinke and Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu has an early opt-out, which affects his AP number below.

For Guerrero, his four-year, $28 million contract includes a $10 million signing bonus and a $4 million salary in 2014, which for my purposes is $14 million but for the AP would count as $6.5 million. Similarly with Arruebarrena, his $7.5 million is spread over five years and counts $9 million for me in 2014 while counting just $3 million for the AP.

For players like Adrian Gonzalez or Hanley Ramirez acquired via trade after signing a multi-year contract with their previous club, the signing bonus wouldn't count against the Dodgers since the team isn't responsible for any portion of it.

Here is a breakdown of the payroll accounting, with estimates in italics:

Pos Player 2014 payments Base salary Signing bonus Years 2014 AP salary
C A.J. Ellis $3,550,000 $3,550,000 n/a 1 $3,550,000
1B Adrian Gonzalez $17,100,000^ $21,000,000 n/a 7 $17,100,000
2B Dee Gordon $525,000 $525,000 $0 1 $525,000
3B Juan Uribe $9,500,000 $6,500,000 $2,000,000 2 $7,500,000
SS Hanley Ramirez $16,000,000 $16,000,000 n/a 6 $16,000,000
LF Carl Crawford $20,250,000 $20,250,000 n/a 7 $20,250,000
CF Andre Ethier $15,500,000 $15,500,000 $0 5 $15,500,000
RF Yasiel Puig $2,000,000 $2,000,000 $12,000,000 7 $3,714,286
OF Mike Baxter $700,000 $700,000 $0 1 $700,000
OF/1B Scott Van Slyke $510,000 $510,000 $0 1 $510,000
IF Justin Turner $1,000,000 $1,000,000 $0 1 $1,000,000
IF/OF Chone Figgins $1,000,000 $1,000,000 $0 1 $1,000,000
C Drew Butera $700,000 $700,000 $0 1 $700,000
SP Clayton Kershaw $22,000,000 $4,000,000 $18,000,000 5* $7,600,000
SP Zack Greinke $29,000,000 $24,000,000 $12,000,000 3* $28,000,000
SP Hyun-jin Ryu $6,000,000 $3,500,000 $5,000,000 5* $4,000,000
SP Dan Haren $10,000,000 $10,000,000 $0 1 $10,000,000
CL Kenley Jansen $4,300,000 $4,300,000 $0 1 $4,300,000
RP Brian Wilson $10,000,000 $10,000,000 $0 1 $10,000,000
RP J.P. Howell $7,000,000 $4,000,000 $3,000,000 2 $5,500,000
RP Chris Perez $2,300,000 $2,300,000 $0 1 $2,300,000
RP Jamey Wright $1,800,000 $1,800,000 $0 1 $1,800,000
RP Brandon League $7,500,000 $7,500,000 $3,000,000 3 $8,500,000
RP Paul Maholm $1,500,000 $1,500,000 $0 1 $1,500,000
RP Paco Rodriguez $525,000 $525,000 $0 1 $525,000
DL Matt Kemp $21,000,000 $21,000,000 $2,000,000 8 $21,250,000
DL Chad Billingsley $12,000,000 $12,000,000 $0 3 $12,000,000
DL Josh Beckett $15,750,000 $15,750,000 n/a 4 $15,750,000
60DL Scott Elbert $575,000 $575,000 $0 1 $575,000
60DL Onelki Garcia $500,000 $500,000 $0 1 $500,000
2B Alex Guerrero $14,000,000 $4,000,000 $10,000,000 4 $6,500,000
IF Erisbel Arruebarrena $9,000,000 $1,500,000 $7,500,000 4 $3,000,000
Opt Chris Capuano $1,000,000 n/a n/a n/a $1,000,000
Opt Mark Ellis $1,000,000 n/a n/a n/a $1,000,000
Totals $265,085,000 $235,149,286
^includes $3.9 million from Red Sox as part of Punto Trade; *early opt-out dates

Trying to keep this apples to apples, there are a few things I didn't include from my payroll worksheet that wouldn't have counted using AP's accounting: the $3.375 million due Andruw Jones (the final year of that contractual monstrosity) and the $1 million deferred bonuses to Matt Guerrier and Juan Uribe from their previous contracts.

The big reason for the differences in figures is just accounting styles. But no matter how you slice it, the Dodgers are tops in baseball in payroll.

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