Baseball, Columnists, Sports

On-Deck Circle: Dodgers’ spending spree highlights salary issue in MLB

Oftentimes, in an MLB offseason, there are multiple “winners” and “losers.” 

Usually, whether your team “won” or “lost,” its offseason is based on the front office’s activity or lack thereof. Teams make noteworthy trades or sign big-name players to bolster their lineup or pitching rotation — or they don’t. 

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For a team that failed to make the postseason in the prior season, an inactive offseason can mean more future offseasons spent at home, not in the playoffs. This winter, inactivity of teams concerning trades or free agents like the Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres has fans antsy and upset at the front office.

But for a team that spends big in the offseason, it can lead to a totally different outlook on the upcoming season. This year’s clear offseason winner? 

The Los Angeles Dodgers. 

The team spent more than $1.2 billion this offseason and acquired two of the year’s biggest free agents: Japanese stars Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto. 

On December 11, Ohtani decided to make the trip north from Anaheim, California to Los Angeles, signing for a record-breaking 10 years and $700 million, most of which won’t even be paid to Ohtani until the deal is over. 

Ohtani agreed to defer 680 million out of the 700 million, roughly 97%, of his contract until 2034. 

The deal shows Ohtani’s commitment to winning. After six seasons of failing to make the playoffs as a member of the Angels alongside all-time great Mike Trout, Ohtani decided to sign a team-first deal and give the Dodgers wiggle room to sign additional free agents. 

In his Instagram post announcing his decision, the reigning American League Most Valuable Player wrote, “I pledge to always do what’s best for the team…” By taking an enormous pay cut for the next ten years, that is exactly what he has done thus far. 

The Dodgers immediately took advantage of the delaying of Ohtani’s payment. 

Less than three weeks later, the team signed another international star, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, to a 12-year, $325 million contract. The 25-year-old Yamamoto, touted as one of the best free agents in this year’s class, joins a pitching staff already full of young talent. 

According to, Yamamoto’s deal is the most guaranteed money for a pitcher ever

This is thanks to the selflessness and smarts of Ohtani.

The Dodgers did not even stop there, unsatisfied with signing arguably the best player of all time and a star international prospect. 

The team went on to sign pitcher Tyler Glasnow and outfielders Manuel Margot and Teoscar Hernandez to boost a team that didn’t need any more help. With a few more weeks until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, the team may not be done either. 

The offseason spending spree by the Dodgers highlights a key issue in baseball: the lack of a salary cap. 

While I won’t get into the pros and cons of a salary cap, as each side has a fair argument, no salary cap has given larger market teams a clear advantage over smaller market teams. 

Nielsen Media Research ranked the TV market size of professional sports cities in the United States in 2023, and Los Angeles came in second place, just behind New York City, with a total of 5.9 million homes available to watch the Dodgers. 

The bottom two cities with an MLB team? Cincinnati and Milwaukee, who ranked No. 37 and No. 38, respectively. Milwaukee sits at just 932 thousand homes in their local TV market. 

Teams that play in or near bigger cities should not be rewarded with more money to spend on free agents. It is unfair for a team like the Kansas City Royals, who have just above one million homes in their market and are trying to attract free agents to their team.

A big reason for Ohtani and Yamamoto signing with the Dodgers was their roster, including stars like Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Max Muncy, three players with world championship experience. It’s pretty hard to turn down a contract when players like those three are present at your meeting with the team. 

While geographical location and other factors play a role in the decision of a star player like Ohtani, how are the Royals supposed to contend for free agents when they can’t sign a big-name player in the first place to attract other stars? 

In a city like Los Angeles, filled with sports history and culture, not much marketing needs to be done to bring in more stars. But for smaller-market teams, an offseason can look much bleaker because there just isn’t enough money to spend on free agents. 

Salaries and spending caps are a key issue in the MLB today. Until the league decides to act on it, teams like the Dodgers will continue to spend as much money as they need to bring in these great players because they can. 


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