Saturday, August 25, 2012

Did Dodgers Overpay? Do New Owners Really Care If They Did?

      By Ross Newhan

      I get it.

      I get that Mark Walter and his fleet of insurance companies will pay the price--any price at this point a) to make the Dodgers more competitive at a time when their farm system can't do it and they are in the battle for a division or wild card playoff berth, b) to remove the stigma of Frank McCourt and c) to challenge the rest of the National League to sneer that they have become the Yankees of the West.

    What do I think of this blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox in the wake of the Dodgers' $85 contract extension for Andre Etheir, the signing of Cuban free agent Yasiel Puig for $44.2 million and the trades for Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton and others?

    I think the Red Sox, while getting little of player substance in return with the possible exception of pitchers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Watson,, created financial flexibility in the closing weks of a disspiriting season and can begin rebuilding through free agency as soon as that bell rings, probably first firing manager Bobby Valentine.

   I think the Dodgers, in first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, acquired aother proven hitter for the middle of the lineup--a significant improvement on James Loney--and a Latino gate attraction who has six years and $127 million remaining on a contract that is in line with other first basemen of his caliber.

   The question that emerges then is this: Did the Dodgers overpay to get Gonzalez?

   The obvious answer is yes, but a clear cut answer as to by how much they overpaid won't be known until the Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford contracts play out.

   It is easy to believe the Red Sox when they insist that they didn't want to trade Gonzalez, but they were delighted to dump Beckett, Crawford and more than $262.5 million for the four players, including utility infielder Nick Punto.

  They were so delighted to create the financial flexibility--which will include evasion of the luxury tax--that, beginning next year, they will pay a total of $12 million of the contracted $262.5 million the Dodgers must pay, pennies under the Red Sox circumstances.

  This is not to say that pitcher Beckett and outfielder Crawford are totally worthless. It's just to say that we won't know how much value they retain until a measure of time passes in their new venue.

  Becket, 32, has gone backwards, plagued by back and clubhouse issues. He is 5-1l with a 5.23 earned-run average and owed $31.5 million for two more years. Yet, with Chad Billingsley having left Friday night's game with an uncertain elbow problem and Ted Lilly still on the disabled list, Beckett could be energized by the change of venue and play an important role down the stretch and beyond. He had to waive his 10 and five rights to approve the trade.

  Crawford, owed $102.5 million over the next five years, has had two disappointing and injury marred seasons with the Red Sox. He appeared in only 31 games this season and underwent Tommy John surgery Thursday, meaning the Dodgers may have to find a way to retain Victorino next year since it it is uncertain when Crawford will be ready to play.

  With all of that, the Dodgers are a better team today than they were yesterday.

  In the new math that the new owners are involved in, that seems to be the only yardstick they are concerned about.         


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