November 1, 2014

An Attempt to Make Sense of the Dodgers’ Off-Season Decisions

This morning I picked up my Magic 8 Ball, gave it a good shake and asked “Will the Dodgers sign an impact starting pitcher before Spring Training?”  The answer?  “Outlook not so good.”  And while I hate to say it, I agree with my Magic 8 Ball.

Now I’m not a true numbers guy, but I’m going to attempt my own financial analysis of the Dodgers’ current situation (feel free to disagree).

First, let’s look at attendance:

Year     Dodgers Attendance       Overall MLB Ranking

2009    3,761,669                               #1

2008    3,730,553                               #3 (Yankees were #1, Mets were #2)

2007    3,857,036                               #2 (Yankees were #1)

2006    3,758,545                                #2 (Yankees were #1)

For the decade as a whole, the Dodgers ranked second in overall attendance with 30,735,479.  Only the Yankees pulled in more fans with 34,061,693.  Not bad!  So it’s safe to say the Dodgers are still consistently pulling the fans through the turnstiles and generating income for the team, even if season ticket prices have been frozen recently.

Now let’s look at payroll.  The Dodgers average payroll for 2006-2008 was $119.57 million, which ranked them fourth in the majors behind the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets.  Their 2008 Opening Day payroll was $118,536,038 (their final payroll in 2008 was $125,864,496).  Their starting payroll in 2009 was $100,458,101.  The average payroll for all MLB clubs decreased by 1.7 percent from 2008 to 2009.  Using the above  numbers, the Dodgers payroll decreased 15.29 percent from Opening Day 2008 to Opening Day 2009.  That’s a big, big difference from 1.7 percent, especially given that the Club was running very strong attendance numbers.

Their 2010 payroll right now stands at roughly $92,791,000 according to Jon Weisman (as of December 17, 2009).  That’s an approximate decrease of 7.7 percent from the Opening Day 2009 payroll.  Things are obviously not moving in the right direction financially, and Phil Gurnee at True Blue LA does a great job of summarizing the financial dilemmas currently facing Dodger ownership.

Given all of this, are the Dodgers moves this off-season really a surprise?  First, they didn’t offer arbitration to Randy Wolf or Orlando Hudson.  Either way you look at this, those draft picks and/or pro salaries would cost money.  Then they trade Juan Pierre for two young pitchers, saving more money in the process.  Next, Ned Colletti signed utility infielder Jamey Carroll for two years and $4 million.  They offered a handful of minor league contracts to older guys hoping to catch on during Spring Training.  Now we have the rumored George Sherrill for Aaron Hurang trade.  Now this makes me really, really nervous from a baseball perspective, but financially, it seems to fit the pattern, right?

However, hope still exisits.  By this point last year, Ned had signed Casey Blake (December 9th) and Rafael Furcal (December 18), but didn’t sign other prominent free agents until well after the first of the year, including Randy Wolf (February 6), Orlando Hudson (February 21) and Manny Ramirez (March 4).

I’m going to ask my original question to the Magic 8 Ball again in mid-January.  Ned does like to make value deals late in the off-season, so I’m hoping for a new answer…something  like “Signs point to yes.”