The Los Angeles Dodgers are interested in, well, just about everybody, at least if you believe the reports. Free agent right hander Anibal Sanchez has been linked to the Dodgers since very early in the off-season. He’s also known to be a top priority of his last employer, the Detroit Tigers.
Early reports had Sanchez seeking a contract of six years and $90 million. Others said the deal he was seeking was actually for seven seasons. Either way, a $15 million average annual value doesn’t seem out of line for a guy most consider to be the second-best available starter in this year’s free agent class. It’s the length of the deal that will not only give most clubs pause, it will chase them off his trail.
Are the Tigers willing to go to $15 million per year for Sanchez? All indications are that they probably would. Tigers owner Mike Ilitch has much deeper pockets than folks outside of Detroit realize. National fans see the crumbled and abandoned buildings throughout downtown Detroit, they see the high unemployment rate and they assume the Tigers cannot possibly maintain a payroll among baseball elite spenders. Ilitch, however, is listed among Forbes magazine 25 richest men in America and his quest to win a World Series seems to have surpassed his desire to not lose money. Though the Tigers have drawn better than 3 million fans twice in the past three years, Ilitch, who founded Little Caesars Pizza and also owns the NHL’s Red Wings, has taken a loss to spend big on payroll.
Of course, when you talk about limitless funds, Ilitch has nothing on the Guggenheim Group that purchased the Dodgers for over $1 billion last summer. A new television contract is about to be finalized with FOX that will pay the Dodgers $240-280 million annually. By comparison, the Tigers get roughly $40 million in local TV revenue each year.
While the new collective bargaining agreement implements a penalty for exceeding the new $189 million luxury tax threshold, the Dodgers will get almost $100 million more than that in local TV revenue alone each year. As far as LA is concerned, there is no luxury tax. It simply doesn’t matter.
The Dodgers are playing a different game than everybody else. Even the Yankees.
The Dodgers, we’ve heard, are interested in Kyle Lohse, who has been outstanding over the past two years. They are said to be the favorites on Zack Greinke, the top pitcher on the market and one who may wind up with the richest deal ever given to a hurler (currently CC Sabathia at seven years and $161 million). They are also a team that already has six starting pitchers under contract for 2013. The thing is, their current roster almost doesn’t matter.
The Dodgers have Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp making upwards of $20 million a year in their outfield. They also signed Andre Ethier to a deal that pays him more than $15 million this past summer. Let’s say Ned Colleti thinks they’d be better off with Josh Hamilton. In that case, Ethier either becomes the highest-paid pinch-hitter of all-time or the Dodgers trade him. And even if no one will take on that salary, they can afford to absorb Ethier’s entire salary if need be in order to get a better return. They wouldn’t even feel it.
With that in mind, the relatively meager salaries of guys like Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, and Ted Lilly are nothing more than a nuisance and will not stand in the way of the club’s pursuit of Greinke or Lohse, or Sanchez.
Or even all of them.
The Angels, according to reports, have already all but given up their hopes of re-signing Greinke. The Rangers and Dodgers have driven the price too high. Sanchez will likely wait to sign until after Greinke does. He’ll be the benefactor of the new economy of baseball; one in which every club has more revenue than ever before, but also in which no club has anywhere near the resources of the Dodgers.