Not content with one massive contract, the Dodgers went out and landed Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto for $325 million over the next 12 years. There’s no deferred money this time, though the extended nature of the deal brings the CBT hit down to a measly $27 million. When combined with Shohei Ohtani, the Dodgers have spent over a billion dollars in free agency while adding $73 million to their luxury-tax payroll.
Oh yeah, they also traded for Tyler Glasnow and extended him for $136.5 million over five years. That’s $1.162 billion in total value and $100.3 million in annual CBT load for the next half-decade, and they might not even be done. This is all in addition to Freddie Freeman‘s paltry $165 million and Mookie Betts‘ $325 million. As things currently sit, the Dodgers are at an estimated $282-288 million in CBT payroll for the 2024 season (lower number from Roster Resource, higher from Cot’s).
This is where we offer up a requisite “LOL, Mets” for having an even higher payroll that includes $65 million being paid to dudes who don’t even play for them. They owe the Rangers almost $31 million for Max Scherzer, the Astros over $26 million for Justin Verlander, and the Orioles $8 million for James McCann.
Rather than continue to lament the Dodgers’ willingness and ability to absolutely blow away the field this winter, I want to look at the distribution of MLB’s biggest active contracts. More specifically, I’d like to point out how the Cubs are woefully underrepresented in that group. We all know they’ve never given out a contract north of $200 million, something that could be holding up a Cody Bellinger reunion until his asking price comes down, but the perspective changes a little when you contextualize it in terms of the game’s largest deals.
Steven Goldman broke it down for Baseball Prospectus in a piece about the Yamamoto deal:
The 50 active contracts with the highest total value are widely distributed, with Padres holding six, the Phillies five, the Rangers and Dodgers four each, the Yankees, Mets, Braves, Mariners, and Astros holding three, the Angels, Cardinals, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Guardians, and Twins holding two apiece, and eight other teams possessing one (left out: The A’s, Royals, White Sox, Reds now that Joey Votto‘s contract has sunset, Marlins, and Orioles).
My first thought is “Holy shit, that’s a very long sentence that could really use a few semicolons.” The counts are a little off as well, which, ironically enough, might be a function of not including Yamamoto’s new deal. That gives the Dodgers five of the top 50 and bumps Yu Darvish to No. 51, though San Diego would still only have four in that case. Regardless, the Cubs are among the teams with just one top-50 contract.
Dansby Swanson‘s seven-year, $177 million pact allowed Jed Hoyer to save some face last year during an offseason that rivaled this one in terms of perceived impotence. That contract still ranks a very respectable 26th in MLB and will move up a little higher once Stephen Strasburg officially retires, if that ever actually happens. The bigger issue for the Cubs is that they don’t appear on the list again until No. 66 with Seiya Suzuki‘s $85 million.
Jameson Taillon ($68M) and Ian Happ ($61M) give the Cubs four contracts in the top 100 — as many as the Reds (0), Brewers (2), and Pirates (2) combined — but the Cardinals have five. With full understanding that simply counting up the number of top-100 contracts ignores a great deal of context, the Cubs should not be mentioned in the same breath as smaller-market teams when it comes to spending.
A marquee franchise, pun intended, should never be outside the top 10 in payroll because even a robust development pipeline must be augmented with star players. Whether we’re talking about impact free agents or big trades, the Cubs can and should be playing with the big boys. And hey, maybe they will be by the time they roll into Mesa in February.
Until that point, I’ll continue to wallow in ennui as we wait to see what Fisherman Jed reels in.