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Dodger dollars demolishing the West

by Matt Smith

It’s not been officially confirmed just yet, but reports state that the Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed terms with free agent Zack Greinke.

It’s an agreement that always seemed too inevitable not to happen.

The Dodgers have the deepest pockets of any team this offseason and a desire to make immediate improvements to their roster. Greinke is far and away the best starting pitcher on the free agent market and was rightly seeking a substantial contract to reflect that status.

The contract reportedly will be worth $147m over six years. That amounts to a total contract value of £91.671m, or just under £294k per week.

The Dodgers’ dealings of late contrast starkly with their approach over the 2011/12 offseason, when General Manager Ned Colletti could only go shopping in the third-tier of starting pitchers, signing Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang to round out their rotation.  It’s a measure not only of how big an impact the new ownership is having already, but also the desperate mess that the Dodgers had been left in by the calamitous ownership of Frank McCourt.

The Dodgers should always be one of the biggest spenders in MLB. They are in one of the biggest markets in America and are known worldwide as a famous sporting icon. Combine that with the financial power of their new owners and the Dodgers are well set to regain their status among the elite teams in baseball.

Their shopping spree is unlikely to end with Greinke. The Dodgers have until 10 p.m. Sunday evening U.K. time to agree terms with Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin after putting up a $25.7m posting fee to win the rights to negotiate exclusively with him. Comments over the last couple of days have suggested the two parties are not close to a deal, but Ryu’s representatives will be setting their sights high considering the Dodgers’ wealth. Once the deadline looms into view and the Dodgers’ limit becomes clear, it’s likely that Ryu will accept and another piece will be added to the roster.

All of which has significant ramifications for the landscape in the West.

In the Dodgers’ own division, the NL West, their fierce rivals the San Francisco Giants know they have a real fight on their hands to hold on to their status as the best team in the West, let alone their World Series title.  The Giants aren’t going to be brushed to one side; they retain a strong roster and could make some further improvements before Spring Training comes around.

However, fans in San Francisco should be especially pleased that their team took full advantage of making it to the World Series twice in three years. A team’s position as a leading contender should never be taken for granted year-on-year, either due to their own performance being derailed by injuries to key personnel or another competitor suddenly taking a big step forward.  The Giants could field a very good team for the next five years and not got another sniff of the Fall Classic, but they will have their memories of 2010 and 2012 forever.

The same cannot be said for the Texas Rangers in the AL West. Back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011 yielded little more than the devastation of being one strike away from glory and yet not taking the prize. Those disappointments were compounded in the 2012 season by a late season slide that saw them lose the AL West division title to the Oakland A’s and then suffer the ignominy of losing the one-game Wild Card contest against the Baltimore Orioles.

A big part of Texas’ plan to get back to the Fall Classic in 2013 was the addition of a top-of-the-rotation starter, namely Zack Greinke. Having lost out to the Dodgers’ dollars, the Rangers now have to regroup and work out where to go next.

Heading into the offseason, the assumption was that if they missed out on Greinke then Josh Hamilton’s return to the Rangers would become much more likely. That assumption may be proved correct, while Texas have been strongly linked in trade talks that would see them acquire the Arizona Diamondbacks’ outfielder Justin Upton and you would expect Texas to either trade for or sign another starting pitcher too now that Greinke is going elsewhere.

Whatever their plans are, you can expect Texas to be busy Christmas shoppers.

Meanwhile their AL West rivals the Los Angeles Angels are having to face the reality of their more illustrious neighbours awakening from their self-imposed slumber.

The Angels were rightfully ridiculed for their rebranding work in 2005 which saw the team change from being the Anaheim Angels to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (of the state of California, of the United States of America, of the World etc). It was a very unsubtle declaration that the organization saw a commercial benefit in bringing ‘Los Angeles’ into the brand.

While the madness of McCourt was leaving the Dodgers in the doldrums, the Angels made a push to become a bigger player within the wider Los Angeles market.  A huge regional TV deal was followed a year ago by the headline-grabbing signing of Albert Pujols on a lucrative ten-year contract. Add in the sparkling potential of Mike Trout and it was all set up for the Angels to, if not usurp the Dodgers, at least to be seen on near equal terms.

The sale of the Dodgers out of bankruptcy to the Guggenheim Baseball Partners group has put an almighty dent into that polished plan.

The Angels acquired Greinke a few days before the trade deadline this summer in the hope of pushing the team into the playoffs and potentially also giving themselves the upper hand in signing the player as a free agent this offseason.  Neither of those hopes were realised and in the latter case it seems that the Dodgers basically blew them out of the running completely.

Instead, the Angels’ additions to their rotation so far have amounted to a trade for the downward trending Tommy Hunter and the signing this week of the solid, if underwhelming, Joe Blanton on a two-year/ $15m contract. There’s still plenty of time for the Angels to improve their roster, but there’s no doubt which team in L.A. is having by far the best of the offseason at this point.

We’ve seen time and time again that winning the offseason doesn’t guarantee any success when the games begin. However, there’s little doubt that the Dodgers are quickly on the rise.

The other teams in MLB have been able to take advantage of the Dodgers’ troubles over the past couple of seasons. Now, the Dodgers are coming back with a vengeance, changing the landscape not just in the West, but throughout MLB.

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1 comment

Joe Cooter December 13, 2012 - 7:10 pm

It will be interesting to see how all these signings have an impact on the actual product out on the field. The question is whether or not these players ca actually play together as a team or whether there are going to be at each others throats. It remains to be seen whether or not the ownership group that is headed by Magic Johnson is spending its money wisely.

Spending money doesn’t always guarentee you sucess just ask the Boston Red Sox, who spent a tone of money a couple of years ago on players like Adrian Gonzolez and Carl Crawford only to trade them to the Dodgers less then two years later, where crawford spent the remainder of the season hurt and Gonzolez didn’t exactly ignite a charge towards the pennent..

Money doesn’t always guarentee success. Just ask the Florida Marlins who spent a ton of money last year on Players like Heath Bell, Jose Reyes and Mark Burhle only to finish in last place behind a New York Mets team that was simply pathetic. The Marlins had NO business finishing in last place but never the less they did and management saw the writing on the wall and decided to that their best course of action would be to rebuild, even if it means getting criticized by the sports media for holding a fire sale. I happen to think that Florida got the better end of the deal with the jays as they recieved quality young players that they can build around. I believe that Toronto made a huge mistake by trading for Jose Reyes and Mark Burhle who were main contributors to the Marlins last place finish. Spending a lot of money doesn’t always mean that you will win.

That’s why I’m skepticall of the Dodgers big spending. That is why I am skeptical of what is going to happen because I am not sure that these players will actuall play well together. In fact, I have reason to doubt that these players can play together as a team. During their time in Boston both Crawford and Beckett earned reputations as being me first players. Beckett drew teh ire of the fans when he was caught playing golf the day after he begged out of a start when he claimed to be injured. Even Adrian Gonzelz hasn’t exactly proven that he is a team leader and was implicated in a Player mutany against then Manager Bobby Valentine when his phone was used to place a call to team ownership during a team road trip. I dont’ think these players are actually winning ball players and I believe that Magic Johnson may have made a mistake by bringing them to Los Angeles.


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