For a franchise that is supposedly in the throes of a sticky bankruptcy/selling process, it is curious that in the past 24 hours, two well-respected baseball pundits have alluded to the possibility—however seemingly remote—of free agent Prince Fielder signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Wednesday night, Peter Gammons tweeted:
Thinking:would the tv rights and sale price for the Dodgers go off the planet w/ Fielder, Kemp, Kershaw all under 30?
Gammons' highly speculative assertion is valid. With the imminent sale of the Dodgers rapidly approaching, a trio of under-30, bona-fide MLB stars is a prospect about which few other franchises (if any) could boast, and it would almost certainly drive up the value of the franchise before its sale.
Then Thursday morning, Jim Bowden of ESPN tweeted this:
Strange, the tweet suggested nothing about whether or not by "best fit" Bowden meant the suggested teams could actually afford him. But according to some relatively recent articles, the Dodgers were reportedly still candidates in the running for Fielder as late as a couple weeks ago.
More recently, however, there has been nothing to suggest that they are in any type of running for Fielder at all. Other sources (including ESPN LA) have quoted GM Ned Colletti as saying the Dodgers' 2012 budget won't allow it.
So, are the Dodgers really dark horse candidates for Fielder?
It's difficult to say. Combing through the strata of Dodgers blogs out there, the fanbase appears skeptical.
Dodgers fans are understandably shell-shocked from the woeful season that was 2011 with all the off-field dramatics swirling due to ownership issues—to say nothing of the Brian Stow debacle. As a result, fans are not appreciative of the prospect of being toyed with by the media or by the Dodgers' front office about the possibility of signing Fielder if there really is no chance.
And, for what it's worth, the Dodgers' official website is prominently promoting reduced-priced season tickets, presumably in response to the soft attendance numbers the Dodgers drew in 2011. If Fielder were really in play for 2012, would discounted season tickets make sense?
And, as expected with the usually tight-lipped Scott Boras, there is no indication from the Fielder camp what kinds of offers are being fielded (or from whom).
Thus, Dodgers fans are left to draw their own conclusions.
For all the unspectacular moves Colletti made at the Winter Meetings, the largest contract doled out was Aaron Harang's two-year, $12 million deal. Does that suggest the Dodgers' wallet is shrinking? Or rather, does it suggest they're pooling their resources for one big, final push at Prince?
Regardless, as Gammons suggested, wouldn't adding Fielder—while initially costing the franchise a ton of money on the front end—eventually pay off by increasing the overall value of the team for sale? If that were the case, it may be a good baseball decision and a savvy fiscal decision as well. It would also be the ultimate counter punch delivered to crosstown rivals, the Los Angeles Angels, after their signing of Albert Pujols.
Whatever the Dodgers' front office final decision will be, they need to make it quickly. The long-term signing of Matt Kemp would seem to indicate they are looking to win now. If that's the case, the first order of business should be to lock up Clayton Kershaw quickly. This should be followed by finding a big bat to complement Kemp's production and put square in the middle of the order. Oh, and sell the team.
But if they feel they don't have the pieces to make a run at the World Series in the next couple seasons, they should gut the team now and start getting future pieces in place for a championship run in the next five to ten years.
Of all this, one thing is certain: Nobody continues to know anything. The cacophony of "expert opinion" clearly suggests as much, so stay tuned.