Trevor Bauer situation will have ‘some impact’ on Dodgers’ payroll, Andrew Friedman acknowledges

CARLSBAD — Andrew Friedman has said it multiple times in recent years. Some years, he can be “more aggressive than others” with the Dodgers’ payroll.

They were very aggressive in 2021 after three years of reining it in – relatively speaking. They did not exceed the competitive-balance tax those years but blew past it with a major-league high payroll exceeding $260 million in 2021.

So where will the 2022 payroll fall on that spectrum?

“I don’t know that I’ve ever had a full appreciation of that in early November,” Friedman said at the annual GM Meetings on Wednesday. “So much of that comes from what the market looks like – the trade market, the free agent market, what areas we’re looking to address. It’s a great thing about our ownership group. That’s not something that’s locked in on Day One as ‘This is a rigid number.’ It’s much more fluid than that.

“I know last year when we made the decisions that we did, payroll-wise, that we were looking at a much higher payroll for two years than what had been the previous two years. … We never view payroll in a one-year horizon. There’s a lot of inner-connectivity between years. But we knew that at the time. Where exactly that is, we’ll see.”

Much of Friedman’s payroll fluidity and flexibility this winter could be tied up in the outcome of Trevor Bauer’s situation. The Dodgers could very well find themselves paying Bauer his full $102 million contract for all of 17 starts made before July of this season.

They already paid him his full salary in 2021, approximately $40 million of his three-year deal. He continued drawing his salary while on administrative leave over the final three months of the season.

The Dodgers could get some relief in 2022 if, as is anticipated, Bauer receives some sort of suspension from MLB. Their investigation of the sexual assault allegations against him is still ongoing. The Dodgers would not have to pay Bauer while he serves a suspension – but Bauer could appeal or file a grievance once MLB hands down its discipline, extending the process further.

Ultimately, the Dodgers might have to swallow the remainder of Bauer’s contract if they decide to cut ties with him (after any suspension has been served). Regardless, the Dodgers have a lot of money tied up in a player who is not likely to pitch for them again.

“We aren’t prepared to talk about that right now,” Friedman said, his standard response to any question about Bauer’s status and future with the team.

Friedman did acknowledge that Bauer’s situation “will have some impact” on the team’s payroll and, by extension, decisions on player acquisitions. But when that impact is felt – or how deeply – will remain an unknown as Friedman works through a complicated offseason that features 12 internal free agents and Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations that could shut the sport down entirely.

“We understand that there are a range of outcomes. We don’t know what they are. We don’t know the likelihood,” Friedman said. “Right now, we’re just proceeding as if we’re trying to do everything we can to put the best team together. We expect along the way we’ll get information that will be helpful. And then we’ll react.”

BORAS TALK

Scott Boras is the agent for a number of top free agents again this winter – including Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager and starting pitcher Max Scherzer. He spoke at length to the media on Wednesday, touching on many subjects including those two.

Boras dismissed the idea that teams might pursue Seager with the intention to move him from shortstop to another position like third base.

“I think teams view Corey Seager as a big-play shortstop in big games,” Boras said. “Teams are coming after Corey Seager as a shortstop.’”

That would be problematic for the Dodgers, who acquired Trea Turner last year then moved him to second base. Turner will be a free agent next winter and might not be interested in signing long term with the Dodgers if it means his future would be at second base with Seager back at shortstop.

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