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Nightengale: As Dodgers Get the GangBack Together, it’s Clear Money Still no Object

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Kenley Jansen's $80 million contract is second only to Aroldis Chapman's $86 million among relievers. Photo: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Dodgers may hate the comparison, but no matter how much they want to believe they’re different, they’re nothing more than a modernized version of the old-school Yankees.

Sorry, they can’t help themselves.

They tried to convince everyone, including themselves, that they wanted to pare their bloated payroll, which was at a major-league high $254 million last year – including $12.5 million to players no longer playing for them.

Sure, they wanted to bring back closer Kenley Jansen, third baseman Justin Turner, and starter Rich Hill, but told everyone who would listen that there was no feasible way they could afford to bring back the entire trio.

Well, after signing Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract during the winter meetings, they got home, and went on a little $144 million spending binge Monday afternoon.

They agreed to terms on a five-year, $80 million deal with Jansen and are on the verge of signing Turner to a four-year, $64 million deal.

So after all of the talk about fearing the new collective bargaining agreement’s heavy luxury taxes, and about complying with baseball’s debt service rule, the Dodgers are showing all of the restraint of an 8-year-old instructed to carefully open the wrapping on his Christmas presents.

The Dodgers have already committed $208 million to 14 players in 2017, and still need a second baseman and setup man.

It makes you wonder if second baseman Chase Utley’s time is now done in LA, and just how much longer they stay with outfielder Yasiel Puig, who is owed $17.4 million over the next two years.

Certainly, it’s hard to imagine that the Dodgers can possibly re-ignite those Ryan Braun trade talks from last summer with the Milwaukee Brewers, even if they were throwing in starter Brandon McCarthy.

Those are problems for another day, just like the luxury tax, which now hovers above the Dodgers’ head like the Goodyear Blimp.

The luxury tax goes to $195 million in 2017, and since the Dodgers will be a four-time offender, they will be taxed at 50%. And, beginning in 2018, there also will be a 12% surtax on the first $20 million over the luxury tax, and 45% surtax on $40 million over the threshold.

The Dodgers, in essence, soon will be paying nearly a dollar-for-dollar tax on their money spent.

Yet, considering the Dodgers lead the majors in attendance and are getting $8.3 billion over the life of their TV deal – despite most of their audience awaiting resolution of a dispute so they can actually watch them on TV – it’s not as if they can’t afford to sign whoever they desire.

It’s only money, right?

The Dodgers are willing to do what it takes to win their first pennant since 1988, and they weren’t about to be out-bid by the Washington Nationals or Miami Marlins, even though at least one of those teams offered more money. The Nats actually offered $85 million, but Jansen wasn’t willing to depart for just $1 million more a year.

Besides, they had no adequate replacement for Jansen, who saved 47 games last season with a major-league best.150 opponent’s batting average, and became their all-times saves leader. Once Aroldis Chapman signed a five-year, $86 million deal with the Yankees, and Mark Melancon went to the San Francisco Giants, there were no free-agent closers the Dodgers desired. They could have always traded for David Robertson of the Chicago White Sox, but that was going to cost money ($25 million over the next two years) plus prospects. So why not bring back the guy they know best.

It’s not much different than Turner, who wasn’t linked to any other club as a free agent. He not only was their clubhouse leader, but one of the game’s top third basemen last season, hitting .275 with 27 homers,  90 RBI and 79 runs. He also absolutely crushed right-handed pitching, batting .305 with 22 homers.

So now the Dodgers will have the band back together again, will be slight favorites over the San Francisco Giants to win their fifth consecutive NL West title, and are showing once again they’ll do anything it takes to win.

Yep, just like the old school Yankees.

The difference, of course, is the Dodgers still are looking for their first World Series title in nearly three decades.

Money can buy you talent, but even as the Yankees cruelly discovered before their self-imposed financial constraints, it can’t guarantee a championship.

Besides, in three years, that’s when the real fun will start with the star-studded 2018 free-agent class. The Yankees, who have only $75.5 million in commitments for 2019, have already declared themselves in for the bidding. The Dodgers, who have $92 million in commitments, can’t stay out.

By Bob Nightengale

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, USA Today. Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter and Facebook

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