Turns out the Red Sox got what they paid for.
And so did the Dodgers.
For those who believe you can’t buy a World Series, the two participants in the 114th edition of the Fall Classic present a compelling case to the contrary. The Red Sox paid $238 million for the American League crown, the highest payroll in the sport, and the Dodgers forked over $194.5 million (fourth overall) for their second consecutive trip to the Series.
For L.A., that was downright frugal. The Dodgers were under $200 million for the first time since 2012, which coincided with the year Magic Johnson’s ownership group purchased the franchise for $2 billion. The cash spigots had been turned on full blast until this season, when L.A.’s mandate — like that of the Yankees, whose $192-million payroll was fifth — was to get below the $197-million luxury-tax threshold.
In that sense, returning to the World Series while slashing $50 million from last year’s MLB-leading payroll has to be doubly satisfying for the Dodgers. Now they get to reap the benefits of the new collective-bargaining agreement, which means no tax this year and a reset to a 20 percent rate should they go over the adjusted $206-million threshold for 2019.
Both the Dodgers and Yankees were able to hit their financial targets this season, but L.A. pulled off two things Brian Cashman & Co. could not — the acquisition of Manny Machado a few days before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline and a trip to the Fall Classic. The Yankees haven’t gotten that far since they won their 27th title in 2009.
It’s worth noting, however, that the Dodgers didn’t have to worry about the Red Sox until now, and Boston’s seeming disregard for payroll penalties should continue to put pressure on the Yankees going forward. Despite Hal Steinbrenner’s repeated statements that he shouldn’t need to spend $200 million to win the World Series, the Red Sox have gladly done that this year, and it will be interesting to see how the tax and draft penalties hurt them in 2019 and beyond.
Can Steinbrenner continue to exercise moderate fiscal restraint this winter, especially if the Sox win the Series? We don’t see how. But Cashman has echoed Steinbrenner’s mantra, and he pledged to re-evaluate the payroll when the team’s decision-makers huddle in Tampa later this month. “I don’t think is going to limit anything, from his standpoint, for consideration,” Cashman said. “It comes down to what’s in front of him, what the choices are and how good he feels about those choices. He’ll set the dance tune and we’ll dance to it.”
Machado certainly will be on that prospective playlist, along with Bryce Harper, and perhaps even Dodgers Game 1 starter Clayton Kershaw.
By contrast, the Red Sox waited out a frigid free-agent market to sign J.D. Martinez last February, giving him a five-year, $110-million deal. Martinez was worth every penny, but he has two opt-outs, one after the 2019 season and another in 2020. So as much as it looks as if the Red Sox got a steal in Martinez, his price is going up, and it’s going to cost them plenty more to keep the Scott Boras client.
MVP candidate Mookie Betts has been on a year-to-year plan with the Sox and is earning $10.5 million this season. What tends to be forgotten is the fact that their third- highest-paid player, Hanley Ramirez, was cut loose in May at a sunk cost of $22.75 million — but it saved the Red Sox from a 2019 vesting option of $22 million, which automatically kicked in if he got to 497 plate appearances.
In other words, Boston’s push for a fourth world championship in 15 years didn’t come cheap. We’re just wondering how much it will cost the Yankees in the coming months.