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Dodgers Payroll Difference Not As Bad As You Think

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Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports wrote a lengthy article about the state of the Dodgers, particularly how the pending divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt will affect the club.  It is a well-intentioned and thorough article, complete with quotes from both Frank McCourt and the attorney for Jamie McCourt, as well as an explanation of the possible effects of divorce on the franchise (although, anyone who has read Joshua Fisher's work at Dodger Divorce over the last few months has been sufficiently informed).  I do have one small quibble with Brown's article, regarding the Dodger payroll:

Because half of Ramirez’s $20 million salary for 2010 is deferred, the Dodgers are expected to pay about $80 million in salaries, a significant drop from last season’s $100 million or so. While payroll represents only a portion of the club’s overhead, one industry insider estimated revenues at about $350 million.

Emphasis mine.  I don't doubt that the Dodgers will have a lower payroll this season, but I think Brown is overstating the case here.  The Dodger payroll in 2009 ended up at roughly $110 million, but that was after various bonuses were reached and player acquisitions were made.  Since we can't see the future, predicting the final 2010 year-end payroll is tough.  However, it's close enough to April 5 that we can reasonably project the opening day payroll.  Comparing this year's opening day payroll to last, the two years really aren't that far apart:

2009 2010
Pos   
Player Salary Pos   
Player Salary
C Martin $3,900,000 C Martin $5,050,000
1B Loney $465,000 1B Loney $3,100,000
2B Hudson $3,000,000 2B Belliard $825,000
3B Blake $5,000,000 3B Blake $6,000,000
SS Furcal $10,500,000 SS Furcal $8,500,000
LF Manny $10,000,000 LF Manny $7,267,760
CF Kemp $467,000 CF Kemp $4,000,000
RF Ethier $3,100,000 RF Ethier $6,000,000
OF Pierre $10,000,000 OF Johnson $800,000
IF Loretta $1,250,000 IF Carroll $1,350,000
PH Mientkiewicz $550,000 PH Mientkiewicz/Giles $550,000
IF DeWitt $405,000 IF Green $550,000
C Ausmus $1,000,000 C Ausmus $850,000
SP Kuroda $13,600,000 SP Kuroda $14,100,000
SP Wolf $5,000,000 SP Kershaw $425,000
SP Billingsley $475,000 SP Billingsley $3,850,000
SP Kershaw $404,000 SP Padilla $4,025,000
SP McDonald $400,750 SP Elbert $405,000
CL Broxton $1,825,000 CL Broxton $4,000,000
RP Kuo $437,000 RP Sherrill $4,500,000
RP Mota $2,350,000 RP Kuo $950,000
RP Wade $402,500 RP Belisario $425,000
RP Ohman $1,350,000 RP Troncoso $425,000
RP Belisario $400,000 RP McDonald $425,000
RP Troncoso $401,000 RP Weaver $800,000
AAA Repko $500,000 AAA Repko $500,000
DL Schmidt $16,000,000
DL Vargas $400,000
Dead Money Dead Money
Andruw $4,850,000 Pierre $4,000,000
Penny $2,000,000 Andruw $3,600,000
Nomar $1,250,000 Schmidt $2,500,000
Loaiza $375,000 Wolf $2,000,000
Bennett $50,000 Hudson $1,440,000
Nomar $1,250,000
Ohman $200,000
2009 Opening Day: $102,107,250 2010 Opening Day: $94,662,760

I made some assumptions regarding the pre-arbitration players for 2010, and those are the salaries of Jeff Weaver, Nick Green, and Doug Mientkiewicz or Brian Giles should they make the club.  See the payroll worksheet for more details, especially regarding the "dead money," or money paid to players no longer on the team.  But the point is that the difference between this year and last is about $7.5 million, not the $20 million as Brown suggested. 

I haven't even factored in money the Dodgers received via insurance from Jason Schmidt's contract in these totals, but if you look at the non-Schmidt money, the Dodgers could actually be spending more in payroll this season than last.  That might be a bit of a stretch, but at the very least I believe the payroll concerns for this season are overblown.  There might be cause for concern, but as is usually the case, it's never as bad as our worst fears suggest.  Will the Dodgers spend money during the season if needed?  Only time will tell.