The Dodgers’ single biggest question of the offseason is essentially over, now that Trevor Bauer was designated for assignment on Friday. Now we have a clearer picture of where their payroll stands in relation to the competitive balance tax.
Bauer’s original three-year, $102-million contract made him the largest single payroll footprint, with an average annual value of $34 million. But his suspension under MLB’s joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy was 194 games, which reduces the payroll obligation somewhat. Bauer served 144 games of that suspension in 2022.
Though his eligibility to play was restored by MLB on December 22 and he’s eligible to pitch at the start of the 2023 season, Bauer was docked 50 days pay for 2023. It’s not as simple as taking away 50/162nds of his salary, which is $32 million this coming season. The major league season is split into 186 days, and the Dodgers’ 50th game is May 23, the 55th day of the season. So Bauer is docked 55 days of salary in 2023, or $9,462,366. The Dodgers are responsible for the remaining $22,537,634, though if Bauer signs with another team, LA’s payroll onus could be reduced by $720,000, the major league minimum salary in 2023.
For competitive balance tax purposes, Bauer’s contract counts as $34 million per year. Taking away the nearly $9.5 million in reduced pay, his CBT payroll number for 2023 is about $24.5 million.
That puts the Dodgers’ total competitive balance tax payroll at roughly $231 million. That includes the signing of J.D. Martinez, whose one-year, $10-million deal was finalized on December 29. That payroll total also includes salary assumptions for the ten Dodgers eligible for salary arbitration this winter (from MLB Trade Rumors), as well as estimated salaries for the players with under three years of service time to fill out the roster, and minor league salaries for players on the 40-man roster, plus league-wide player benefits and payment into the pre-arbitration bonus pool which is split equally among 30 teams.
Dodgers 2023 payroll, for competitive balance tax purposes
|Player||Pos||2023 CBT number||Comments|
|Player||Pos||2023 CBT number||Comments|
|Will Smith||C||$5,200,000||MLBTR arbitration estimate|
|Freddie Freeman||1B||$24,699,249||6/$162m w/$57m deferred|
|Chris Taylor||2B||$15,000,000||4 yrs, $60 million|
|Max Muncy||3B||$13,500,000||1 year, plus 2024 option|
|Trayce Thompson||CF||$1,700,000||MLBTR arbitration estimate|
|Mookie Betts||RF||$25,554,824||12/$365m w/$115m deferred|
|J.D. Martinez||DH||$10,000,000||1-year deal|
|Austin Barnes||C||$3,500,000||2 yrs, $7 million|
|Julio Urías||SP||$13,700,000||MLBTR arbitration estimate|
|Clayton Kershaw||SP||$20,000,000||1-year deal|
|Tony Gonsolin||SP||$3,500,000||MLBTR arbitration estimate|
|Noah Syndergaard||SP||$13,000,000||1-year deal|
|Dustin May||SP||$1,400,000||MLBTR arbitration estimate|
|Daniel Hudson||RHP||$6,500,000||1 year, plus 2024 option|
|Evan Phillips||RHP||$1,400,000||MLBTR arbitration estimate|
|Yency Almonte||RHP||$1,000,000||MLBTR arbitration estimate|
|Brusdar Graterol||RHP||$1,200,000||MLBTR arbitration estimate|
|Shelby Miller||RHP||$1,500,000||1-year deal|
|Caleb Ferguson||LHP||$1,100,000||MLBTR arbitration estimate|
|Walker Buehler||IL||$8,100,000||MLBTR arbitration estimate|
|Blake Treinen||IL||$8,000,000||1 year, plus 2024 option|
|Trevor Bauer||gone||$24,537,634||3 yrs, $102m, less 50g in '23|
|Minor leaguers on 40-man||$2,500,000|
|Team benefit costs||$16,750,000||was ~$16m in 2022|
|Pre-arb bonus pool||$1,666,667||$50m split between 30 teams|
Things will get clearer next week, with Friday, January 13 the date for teams to exchange salary figures with their players eligible for salary arbitration. That date usually serves as a soft deadline for getting deals done, and the Dodgers have 10 players going through that process this offseason.
The first threshold for the competitive balance tax in 2023 is $233 million. As a tax payor in both 2021 and 2022, the Dodgers would face increased penalties should they exceed the threshold again in 2023, starting at 50 percent of the first $20 million over $233 million.
Given that the current roster lacks depth and more moves are surely coming, it seems highly unlikely for the Dodgers to stay under that first threshold without trading away some salary. That’s if avoiding the tax is a real goal, especially with Bauer’s remaining money weighing down the total payroll.
But even if the Dodgers do nothing else this offseason, they are already close enough to the first threshold that they will likely go over $233 million just by a few contract incentives here and there. Noah Syndergaard gets $500,000 for each of 130 and 150 innings pitched, for instance.
There’s also injured list stints, which are inevitable over a long season. And those roster spots need to be filled. Even if those fill ins are making the major league minimum of $720,000 — which is roughly $3,871 per day — the added payroll would also put the Dodgers over the threshold. Even removing the pitchers who spent the entire 2022 season on the IL, the Dodgers totaled 1,255 games missed on the injured list last year.
Another consideration is players the team might trade for during the season, which will also very likely add payroll as well.
In other words, barring some unexpected occurrence, the Dodgers will almost certainly pay the competitive balance for a third consecutive season in 2023.