OFFSEASON DAY 19. (IT’S REALLY ONLY BEEN 19?!)

> In the new CBA, this new concept of qualifying offers was set up.  The idea is that if teams offer an agreed-upon contract ($13.3 million) to one of their free-agent-to-bes and that player turns them down, they will get a compensation draft pick.

The intended purpose of this was to keep more free agents with their teams, but every single player to whom this offer was extended turned it down, including our very own Kyle Lohse.  This might be an early sign that the $13.3 mill might need to be raised.

> The Reds want Michael Bourn.  That’s not good.

> Yadier Molina was voted the best fielder in the National League by fans.

> Wrote this back in August.  It’ll probably be pretty relevant as the Dodgers go on an offseason tear in the coming months.

After the massive nine-man trade that went down over the weekend that sent Dodgers prospects and cash to the Red Sox for Adrian GonzalezJosh BeckettCarl Crawford and our boy Nick Punto, the Dodgers took on a lot of payroll for this and near-future seasons in an effort to crush the Giants’ hopes once and for all and win the West in 2012 and beyond.

This is what their lineup should look like on Opening Day next year when Crawford gets back:

1. Dee Gordon, SS
2. Carl Crawford, LF
3. Matt Kemp, CF
4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
5. Hanley Ramirez, 3B
6. Andre Ethier, RF
7. Mark Ellis, 2B
8. A.J. Ellis, CR
9. Clayton Kershaw / Josh Beckett / Chris Capuano / Chad Billingsley / Aaron Harang

Andre Ethier will hit freaking sixth.

That’s an awesome lineup.  And even though it’s taboo among non-Yankees fans, I love to watch teams go on spending gorges and build super teams like the ones above–an All-Star team with the same uniform.  However, the way and the time the Dodgers decided to do this comes with way more risk than any environment the Yankees ever did it in.

Unless you read EM with some regularity, it’s unlikely that you’ve heard about how MLB is going to be under a virtual salary cap by 2014.  The cap is actually a luxury tax with overage penalties so harsh that even the Yankees are trying to dump payroll to stay under it.

But the Dodgers aren’t trying very hard to.  They’ll owe $181 million to their players on Opening Day of 2013, not including three unfilled roster spots that need to be filled by minor leaguers or even more free agents.  And the luxury tax threshold for 2013 is set at  $178 million; meaning they’ll about $1 million in luxury tax next year as “first-time offenders” of the League’s appointed maximum payroll.  And every year after that, the penalty rate goes up.

First-timers: 17.5% of cash spent over the limit
Second-timers: 30%
Third-timers: 40%
Four-plus-timers: 50%

In 2014, the limit is raised to $184 million.

So the Dodgers continue to wave their giant wand around, picking up the best players to be had and finally giving their gigantic fan base in Los Angeles something to cheer for after two whole years of Frank McCourt’s losing ways.  No doubt that, when the Guggenheim Group (and Magic Johnson!) threw down $2 billion for the team also knowing an impending “multi-billion dollar” TV deal was on the way, they said screw it to the finances and just bought whoever they wanted.  After all, the Yankees have been doing it forever, so why couldn’t they?

There are two ways this Dodger spend binge could end.  The first is that it works, the Dodgers piss all over MLB’s puny luxury tax threshold for the next two years, provoking them to raise the penalties after the CBA ends in 2014 so as to proportionately counterstrike the onslaught of billion-with-a-”B” TV deals.  In this scenario, even if Crawford and Beckett end up as losing bets, Magic and Friends can just laugh atop their ivory tower and buy able-bodied superstars to replace them.

The second outcome is that the Dodgers push their fortune too far and the whole thing comes crashing down like Theo Epstein’s Failure At Fenway just did.  But when we’re talking billions of dollars versus a tax threshold set for a dying financial landscape, that seems a lot less likely.

To make this relevant to a primarily Cardinals site, whatever sub-$5 million TV deal they have with FSN needs to die quickly and be replaced with one of these much bigger deals.  Because the landscape is changing fast, and they’ve already lost the best player in franchise history to it.

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