Braves have no issue with Dodgers’ spending spree. ‘All for it’

LOS ANGELES — The Braves and Dodgers share more than permanent admiration for Joc Pederson. They’ve been the National League’s premier teams for five years now. Each has a World Series title and numerous heartbreaks to show for it. Every time they meet, as they have this weekend in Southern California, it’s mentioned as a possible postseason preview.

These two franchises have sustained success through different means. That’s especially true of their 2024 editions.

While the Braves have committed a franchise-record sum to a mostly homegrown club, the Dodgers have acquired almost all their stars from other teams: Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and now Shohei Ohtani, all MVPs for their previous franchises who – through varying paths – found their way to Los Angeles.

“Obviously, they made some splashes there,” Braves first baseman Matt Olson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They’re one of the few teams, I’d say, that are willing to go out and spend for guys. There are select teams up there that are truly going after the big guys, and they’re obviously going to be one of them. You bring in Shohei, it’s going to be a big splash.”

The Ohtani acquisition was indeed the ultimate flex. The Dodgers signed Ohtani to a 10-year, $700 million deal (notably with $680 million deferred without interest, a structure Ohtani’s camp pitched to all his suitors). They also added top free-agent starter Yoshinobu Yamamoto on a $325 million pact from Japan. And ace starter Tyler Glasnow via trade (the team promptly extended him). The Dodgers spent another $30 million combined for slugger Teoscar Hernandez and starter James Paxton on one-year deals.

There’s a lot of bellyaching from fans about the lack of a salary cap. It reached a new stratosphere with the Dodgers’ we’re-richer-than-you offseason. And while opposing fans remain disgusted, there’s no complaining from the Braves, who – as a long-standing contender and Dodgers adversary – are impacted quite strongly by the spending spree.

“I mean, I’m all for it,” Braves reliever A.J. Minter, who’s been with the team for these seven years of Braves-Dodgers battles, told the AJC. “If you’ve got the money and you want to win, go make your team better. And that’s what they did. Every year they have a chance to win the World Series, and they go out and make moves.

“They’re not afraid to spend money. They’re not trying to (just) make money as an organization. They’re trying to win a World Series. Give them credit. Again, I’ve said it before, money doesn’t buy World Series. It doesn’t buy wins. It takes a little bit more, good luck in the postseason and playing just playing at the right time. But I applaud them for going out there and trying to make their team better.”

The Dodgers have three $300 million contracts. There are 14 such deals in MLB, and no other team has three (the Yankees, Phillies and Padres have two each). The Dodgers have two additional $100 million deals – Freeman ($162M) and Will Smith ($140M, an extension) – that help bring their payroll to historic heights over the long term.

No other teams, besides those based in New York, can match the Dodgers’ resources. It’s hard to blame them for maximizing that. Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas made headlines in the spring when he called the Dodgers’ strategy “checkbook baseball.” But players also want franchises to spend, obviously, so it makes for interesting perspectives.

“I think it’s a good thing for the game, absolutely,” Olson said. “The longer guys get into their careers and have that opportunity, you want to have the most teams available in the mix. I think it’s good. These are the teams you love playing, when they go out and get the big guys.”

It’s not like the Braves are the little engine that could. Their $230 million estimated payroll (per Roster Resource) ranks sixth. They’ve continued spending and setting record highs in salaries during this six-year division reign. The Battery Atlanta is a revenue source that’s becoming the trend around stadiums across the country.

But the Braves are spending their financial resources more organically. They signed outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., second baseman Ozzie Albies, third baseman Austin Riley, outfielder Michael Harris II and starter Spencer Strider to long-term deals as homegrown talents.

They saw Freeman and shortstop Dansby Swanson walk in free agency. They replaced Freeman with Olson (via a trade before extending his contract) and swapped Swanson for Orlando Arcia, a former utilityman who’s succeeded in a full-time role. Their free-agent spending typically is limited to short-term deals to maintain flexibility. Like the Dodgers with Glasnow, the Braves extended Olson and catcher Sean Murphy after trades.

Before this winter, the Dodgers were more measured spenders. Among the All-Star players they saw walk in free agency over the years: Zack Greinke, Manny Machado, Yu Darvish, Trea Turner, Max Scherzer and Corey Seager. It was no secret the Dodgers were preparing to bid for Ohtani over a year in advance, so they were calculated in positioning themselves for such lavish spending.

“To me it’s like, to each his own,” Riley told the AJC. “If you have it, and you’re willing to spend it, more props to you. They’re trying to make their team better and win a World Series. I know there are different ways you can go about it, and that’s the way they decided to go about it.

“The additions that they made, obviously getting Shohei – that’s a really good one. They’re a really good team. Even with (Tyler) Glasnow, he’s one of the elite pitchers when he’s healthy. They made some really good adds. I think you’re seeing that. They’re one of the best in the league.”

The Braves, amid one of their great runs in franchise history – a worthy sequel to the 1990s, must continue contending with baseball’s western supervillain. So whether it’s in-house signings or flashy acquisitions, let the cash keep flowing.

“It’s hard to sustain (winning), especially in today’s game,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s two really strong organizations.”