The Dodgers’ apparent attempt to stay below the luxury tax cutline was thrown into turmoil by MLB’s reinstatement of Trevor Bauer.
Whether or not the Dodgers release him, Bauer will still be owed $22.5 million this season. (That could drop to about $21.8 million if he is released and signed by another team on a league-minimum salary.)
That’s less than the $32 million Bauer was originally supposed to make in 2023. But even that reduced amount pushes the Dodgers’ estimated luxury tax payroll for next season, according to Fangraphs Roster Resource database, to just under $233 million — the threshold at which the league begins assessing luxury tax penalties.
After paying tax penalties the past two years, and facing an inflated 50% tax rate in 2023 for being a repeat offender, the Dodgers had previously seemed likely to stay below the $233-million tax line.
They had freed up more than $100 million in salary from last year’s team. They had made only a string of modest one-year signings so far this offseason. And though their lack of spending had netted an underwhelming cast of additions for next year, the long-term benefits of potentially resetting the tax now would have positioned them to spend big again next offseason, when Shohei Ohtani is set to headline the free agent market.
Bauer’s reduced suspension could complicate any such plans.
Staying below the tax line could box the Dodgers out from making other needed additions to the roster in 2023 — such as adding more pitching depth or a left-handed bat before the end of the winter, or trading for a shortstop or bona fide ace before the midsummer deadline.
On the other hand, if they do cross the threshold to complete their 2023 squad, the resulting penalties might make them less willing to pay a luxury tax again the following season, leaving the possibility of adding another lucrative long-term contract a year from now increasingly tenuous.
Given the team’s reluctance to sign Carlos Correa due to possible fan resistance, I can’t imagine them keeping Bauer, even though he’s been convicted of no crimes. I imagine there’s some heavy cogitation going on in the offices at 1000 Elysian Park Avenue.