Just when a deal between free agent Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies appeared to be a foregone conclusion, as The Inquisitr reported, new reports surfaced on Monday morning stating that representatives of the Los Angeles Dodgers were spotted in Las Vegas, presumably meeting with Harper at his home there.
According to MLB.com, the Dodgers have reentered the “mix” of teams interested in Harper. But before Dodgers fans get too excited, they should remember a reported pledge made by the team’s management shortly after the conclusion of the 2018 World Series — a pledge that now appears to make Los Angeles an unlikely landing spot for the 26-year-old six-time All Star.
On November 8, 2018, The Los Angeles Times reported that Dodgers ownership had prepared a document as part of a pitch to new investors in the club. This document contained a pledge to keep their payroll under the competitive balance tax — also known as “luxury tax” — threshold not only in 2019, but for the following three seasons as well.
The limit after which the Dodgers would need to pay the tax will be $206 million for 2019, according to MLB.com. That leaves the Dodgers very little room to sign Harper, who appears almost certain to insist on a contract with an average annual value of, at minimum, $30 million. The Dodgers’ current 2019 payroll stands at approximately $192.8 million, according to data compiled by Spotrac.
Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman did not comment to The Los Angeles Times on whether the team would be willing to break the pledge, saying only, “there’s no question that we have plenty of resources to win a World Series next year. The talent on hand, and the flexibility to do that, is definitely there.”
Adding Harper even at just $30 million for the season would put the Dodgers $16.8 million over the tax limit, as their payroll stands today. Because the Dodgers kept their payroll under the limit in 2018, after four straight years of exceeding the cap, they pay only the minimum amount of tax on the amount they go over the threshold — 20 percent.
In other words, the Dodgers would pay an extra $3.36 million in 2019 alone, meaning that Harper would actually cost $33.6 million for the season.
But what if Harper insisted on an even higher salary?
Some rumors have put his price as high as $40 million per season. If the Dodgers were willing to pay that much — under MLB rules as explained by Forbes — the Dodgers would pay an additional 12 percent “surcharge” on any amount more than $20 million above the tax threshold.
The tax would then add an extra $6.2 million, making Harper a $46.2 million player — in 2019 alone. The tax would increase sharply for each subsequent year of Harper’s contract, making the cost of adding Harper unrealistic — even for a wealthy team such as the Dodgers, whose annual revenues exceed $520 million, according to Forbes. The Dodgers’ reported “interest” in Harper appears, then, to be a tactical move, designed to drive up the price the Phillies or any other team will be forced to pay Harper.