On Saturday, Major League Baseball posted an Instagram about the Dodgers potentially being favorites to sign Harper, and Harper liked the post.
As silly as following who likes what post on social media can seem, Harper closely monitors his image and knows how his actions are perceived. Just like how LeBron James knew it would be a news story when he told Dwyane Wade that his career had to end in L.A. or New York.
Well, are the Dodgers favorites to sign Harper?
The Dodgers have been one of the four highest-spending teams in each season since 2013 with an average annual payroll of $247.7 million. The Dodgers did cut back on spending recently, however, falling under the luxury tax for the 2018 season at $195 million.
Since signing Clayton Kershaw to a seven-year, $215 million deal in 2014, the Dodgers haven’t given out another nine-figure deal. And all the largest contracts they’ve given out have been to retain their own players: Kershaw’s three-year, $93 million deal this November and Justin Turner‘s four-year, $64 million contract last offseason, plus Kenley Jansen‘s five year, $80 million contract and Rich Hill‘s three-year, $48 million deal two winters ago.
The Dodgers claim that they will be under the luxury tax through 2022, but that remains to be seen. They certainly have the financial wherewithal to outspend Harper’s other suitors, including the Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs.
Dodgers have been clearing space
The Dodgers made the last two World Series in part thanks to outstanding depth, but recently they’ve traded much of that depth away. On Friday, the Dodgers traded away spare outfield and rotation depth for salary relief, shipping Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood and Matt Kemp to the Cincinnati Reds.
All told, the trade saved the Dodgers about $6.8 million in salary but $15.8 million in taxable salary, which leaves their payroll around $180 million. They wouldn’t be able to sign Harper, who will likely command more than $30 million annually, and stay under the $206 million luxury tax line, but now the tax burden will be much smaller if they do sign Harper.
Not only did the trade clear money to bring in Harper, the Dodgers also have a potential hole in the outfield. A group of Joc Pederson, Cody Bellinger and Alex Verdugo is not bad by any means, but the Dodgers would certainly welcome the thump that Harper brings to the middle of a lineup.
The big Dodgers-Reds trade doesn’t make sense from a baseball perspective in a vacuum, but it might once the Dodgers spend the money they’ve saved. And Bryce Harper has an idea where they might spend it.
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