Skip to main content

Los Angeles Dodgers’ spending for Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto just means that MLB needs a salary floor

los angeles dodgers
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As soon as it was reported that 25-year-old Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto signed a 12-year, $325 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers – a record in both length and value for a free-agent pitcher – the social media world was flooded with complaints.

This, many suggested, is a prime example of why baseball is broken.

  • No salary cap allows teams in huge markets to ignore the luxury tax and outspend smaller markets by 5-, maybe 10-to-1.
  • Get ready for a 10-year run of dominance by the Dodgers, who this winter also added two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani for a record $700 million and traded for and extended pitcher Tyler Glasnow to a $136.5 million deal to bring their free-agent spending to more than $1 billion before Christmas.
  • Paying Yamamoto $325 million, plus $50.6 million to the Japanese team that posted him, without him ever throwing a major league pitch, is insanity.  
  • These moves were terrible for baseball.

To all of this, I say, “horse hockey.”

Baseball is fine. There’s plenty of money in this game. Don’t let billionaire owners fool you.

Yes, the salaries are out of whack – ridiculously out of whack – given what mere Regular Joe mortals make. But that is true for all entertainment industries such as music, film, television and the like.

And, yes, what the Dodgers have done in the last few weeks will continue to push elite players’ salaries into a stratosphere that will never return to normalcy, and it will also up the price on above-average, average and mediocre players. Ultimately, those expenses will be passed onto the consumer through ticket prices, stadium concessions, streaming and cable costs, et cetera.

That obviously stinks because baseball shouldn’t price itself away from the regular fan.

But here’s the thing: Maybe these developments eventually price baseball away from the mediocre, penny-pinching owner. And that would be an amazing thing for the game.

Los Angeles Dodgers exposed what MLB really needs

los angeles dodgers
Credit: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

Forget about a salary cap in baseball. It isn’t happening. The union is too strong. What this sport needs is a salary floor. Period. And if an owner can’t afford to reach the minimum of an annual payroll – $100 million, $150 million, $200 million? – then get out. Sell to someone who can.

These aren’t your fathers’ and grandfathers’ players’ salaries anymore. We must accept that without wondering how much Bob Gibson or Mickey Mantle would be worth in 2023.

Similarly, we need to move on from bootstrap stories about a used car salesman or a hard-working attorney purchasing the baseball teams in their towns. Those days are gone, too.

What Major League Baseball needs are more owners who want to win at all costs and not owners who are trying to keep down costs. These types of ownership groups have emerged in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York and Texas. Let’s keep them coming.

If MLB had a significant floor, individual salaries would continue to rise and there would still be a disparity between the big-market franchises and the small ones. But the small ones would be forced to pony up to an acceptable level, even when they are rebuilding. Some owners will cry poor that their markets can’t sustain such an increase. Not true. It’s just that owners in those markets wouldn’t be receiving as large of a profit as they have in the past or as larger market teams do.

Again, MLB teams are not losing money. Professional sports teams are not losing money. Not with all the other revenue streams that include technology, broadcasting and the gambling industry.

I understand the fear of rising salaries affecting ticket prices to an untenable result. But there are so many discount ticket brokers online now that a little preparation and flexibility can yield acceptable options.

My son and I haven’t been to an NBA game in a decade. We wanted to this year. We picked matchups that intrigued us and began monitoring online prices. We’ll be going in January and sitting together for $7 a ticket in a relative nosebleed section. With fees, it’s a total of $34 – roughly the same as two movie tickets and maybe a small popcorn.

And if we simply wanted to follow our favorite NBA or MLB team without seeing them live, we could just watch them on cable or satellite or stream the games – all of the games. We’re not in the “Saturday Game of the Week” or nothing else era anymore.

How will MLB spending sprees affect ticket prices

Los Angeles Dodgers
Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

How the Dodgers’ billion-dollar purchases – and the domino effect throughout the league – affect ticket prices is a legitimate concern for me. But that is the only downside I see.

Baseball fans around the world will be paying attention to how Ohtani and Yamamoto do in Los Angeles, and any tick-up in interest is good for the sport.

Now, fans have a new villain to root against, those spend-anything Dodgers, who, at least for a minute, have surpassed those evil, spend-anything New York Yankees and New York Mets and San Diego Padres in the “I-hope-they-fail” category. Seriously, how much fun was it that all three of those clubs didn’t make the postseason in 2023?

Let’s not forget that the barely-spend-anything Arizona Diamondbacks made it to the World Series and the Baltimore Orioles won 101 games and the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins also made the 2023 playoffs. Furthermore, MLB hasn’t had a repeat winner since the 1998-2000 Yankees and there have been nine different World Series champs in the past 10 years – basically, a third of the league has won a title since 2014.

Baseball isn’t broken. It simply changes from time to time.

The Dodgers, with their mind-blowing contracts to Ohtani and Yamamoto, are the ones that have altered it now. And maybe they’ll win the next 10 World Series.

Or maybe not being able to compete financially in this new world will push out those owners who can’t or won’t play along. That would be a great thing for baseball.

Dan Connolly is an MLB Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

Mentioned in this article:

More About: