The Los Angeles Dodgers have a history handing out ridiculous salaries. While under the ownership of Frank and Jamie McCourt, the Dodgers paid a Russian Monk a six figure salary to channel good thoughts toward the team. From his home in Russia.
One would have hoped that once the McCourts were out of the picture, the lunacy would have ended.
Apparently, it did not.
On Tuesday, GM Ned Colletti ponied up a three-year contract for reliever Brandon League. Three years. And that’s not even the best (worst?) part: League will earn upwards of $7.1 million per year. Heath Bell sees absolutely nothing wrong with this contract.
League wound up closing games for LA down the stretch last year and he did pitch well in the 27 innings he tossed for the club after coming over via trade mid-season. In that small sample, he fanned nearly a batter per inning, though he did walk an alarming 4.6 per nine as well. This is the same guy, however, that pitched so poorly in Seattle he lost his job as closer and was basically given away to the Dodgers.
Over his first seven seasons in the majors, League posted a strikeout rate of 6.7 per nine innings while walking an acceptable 2.9 per nine. Last season, despite the jump in strikeouts during his time in LA, League still wound up fanning just 6.8 batters per nine but his walk rate was up over a batter per nine innings. In other words, nothing in those 27 Dodger innings should suggest that league is somehow a better pitcher in the National League than he was throughout his career in the AL; in fact, indications are that he’ll be worse, especially given the natural regression as pitchers age. As League begins to lose velocity, he’ll likely be on the same career path as Bell or Jose Valverde.
Is that someone you feel good about locking up for three years and more than $21 million? It shouldn’t be. There were many around baseball shocked by the figures, but Mike Petriello’s take was particularly notable.
And you know our feelings on multi-year deals to non-elite relievers. They never. Ever. Work out. Ever, and you’d think the Matt Guerrier experience would have taught us some lessons here. If League can get that much from the Dodgers, how do they ever expect to sign anyone else for less? I really have a hard time looking at that and thinking that it’ll in any way be worth it; not only that, I have a hard time thinking that we won’t spent the next three years making fun of it.
Petriello is right when he says that this deal will drive up prices on Dodger free agents, but only because it proves the club has no budget and no limit on payroll. Not only will this keep the club from using any kind of leverage with potential free agents, but it will artificially raise the market value for basically every available free agent, regardless of where they wind up signing. If there is even a perceived fit with the Dodgers, the threat of that contract figure being so over-the-top could force teams into bargaining against the lunacy of Colletti and the Guggenheim ownership group.
Look, I don’t hold any ill-will toward League at all. If someone wants to hand me vastly more money than I’m worth for doing the job I do, of course I’ll be thrilled to take it, just as any one of us would. Unfortunately, League becomes the one that has to deal with being set-up to fail as there is virtually no way he could ever live up to this contract. And it’s not as if he signed for Jayson Werth money. We’re talking about relative chump change, but the principle is the same.
It’s bad idea to pay for saves, a terrible idea to pay for what you see in a very small sample size, and a downright silly idea to pay upwards of $7 million per year for what amounts to a right handed specialist.
Welcome to LA; where the names may change, but the lunacy remains the same.