Well, that was quick: per Dylan Hernandez, Brandon League has re-signed with the Dodgers, and it’s for three years, just like we thought. Hernandez follows up that it’ll be worth $22.5m and a vesting option for 2016 if he finishes 55 games in 2015, which, wow.
As you can imagine, smart people whom I generally respect on the internet asbolutely hate this:
This $21 million for Brandon League thing is a Halloween’s Eve joke, right?
— Matt Klaassen (@devil_fingers) October 31, 2012
Oh. God. RT @jimbowdenespnxm League’s deal is north of 7.1m per.
— Drew Silva (@drewsilv) October 31, 2012
Three years for a right-handed specialist? Even with an infinite payroll, that’s still dumb. #dodgers
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) October 31, 2012
@keithlaw So your #45 free agent got more guaranteed years than your #6 free agent. Long live Ned Colletti.
— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) October 31, 2012
Burning piles of money is the new market inefficiency. RT @dylanohernandez: Brandon League’s new deal w/ Dodgers is 3 yrs
— jonahkeri (@jonahkeri) October 31, 2012
I know the Dodgers have a lot of money, but this is the baseball equivalent of buying a used diamond encrusted iPhone.
— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) October 31, 2012
…and so on. From a purely objective point of view, good lord, $7.5m a year for Brandon League. Brandon League! A non-elite reliever who lost his closing gig to former bartender Tom Wilhelmsen just last season! 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.
At any other time, for any other team, we’d be screaming bloody murder over this. And I’m certainly not saying I’m thrilled about it. But on the other hand… what does this really mean? From a baseball perspective, all it means that League is back in the bullpen (as the closer, as we figured). That’s a good thing; he’s no star, but he’s a solid reliever, one who just about any team could find a use for. While it’s hard for me to say he’s clearly better than Kenley Jansen and therefore should absolutely be the closer, that’s besides the point; you can never have too many good relievers, and my preference to have Jansen available for higher-leverage situations in the seventh & eighth is well-known.
So from a baseball point of view, this is no problem. It’s from a financial perspective that is making everyone crazy, because, well, $22.5m for Brandon League. But if we’re simply hoping that our favorite team wins baseball games, money only matters in the sense that if you give too much of it to players who aren’t stars, you might not have enough left over for pieces you really need. We’ve seen Colletti make this mistake in the past, but this is a strange new world of seemingly unlimited finances. In fact, just yesterday I was trying to think through this:
League made $5m in 2012 without the leverage of free agency, so I’d have to think he’s looking for a raise, which over a three-year deal would work out to something more like $20-$25m. In a world where Papelbon is picking up $51m over four years, that seems like a pretty fair price for a good-but-not-elite reliever.
And that’s exactly what League is. Over the last four seasons, League’s FIP numbers have been 3.58, 3.91, 2.78, 3.19. That’s a worthwhile reliever, and it comes along with the added potential, however unlikely, that the mechanical changes League made after coming to the Dodgers is something he can sustain into next season. He’s also not even 30, which is certainly preferable to Guerrier, who turned 33 in the middle of his first season as a Dodger.
If this is the contract that prevents the Dodgers from signing Zack Greinke or someone like him, then yeah, this is a nightmare. But I really, really don’t think it is. If it’s not… then you’ve added a good reliever to a team that needed one. If the Dodgers seemingly don’t care about payroll or the luxury tax, then why should we? (Though we will need to talk about that soon; take a look at our payroll page, and you’ll see that they are easily over $200m for 2013.)
Perhaps I’m just trying to rationalize this. Maybe I’m really putting far too much stock in the mechanical change that made him dominant over the last month or so of the season, because again, I’m not saying this is a good deal. It’s hard to think that League is actually going to be worth all of that money. I also can’t sit here with my head in my hands about it, either, and I’m happier having him in the bullpen in 2013 than not.
Either way, at least someone’s happy about this on Twitter, anyway:
It’s official! Couldn’t be more proud and happy to call LA my home for the next 3 years! Looking forward to seeing everyone this spring.
— Brandon League (@BrandonLeague31) October 31, 2012