Could Josh Hamilton end up with the megabucks Dodgers?
When the Guggenheim Baseball Management ownership group (fronted by Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten and Mark Walter) bought the Los Angeles Dodgers in late March for $2 billion, the crown jewel of the package was believed to be the team's TV broadcast rights.
How much money would those rights shovel into the Dodgers' castle? The numbers began with hundreds of millions of dollars, but many analysts projected the team's TV package to be worth billions. It appears those predictions were correct.
According to the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin, Fox Sports could pay up to $6 billion to keep the Dodgers' local TV rights. The deal would cover 25 years, averaging $240 million per year for a total of $6 billion or $280 million per year for $7 billion.
Walter was not kidding when he told the L.A. Times' Dylan Hernandez on Aug. 22, "We can take on significant money." That may have been the understatement of the decade. What doesn't seem possible with that kind of revenue pouring into the Dodgers' vault?
Besides visions of the Guggenheim Baseball Management partners diving into pools of cash and lighting cigars with $100 bills while sipping on the most expensive of cognacs, that amount of money presumably puts the Dodgers in play for not only the best free-agent talent, but multiple top-dollar players.
The spending sprees that the Los Angeles Angels and Miami Marlins put on during last year's winter meetings could conceivably look feeble compared to what the Dodgers might be capable of with their pockets overflowing with TV money.
The Angels' TV deal was supposed to be the game-changer in MLB, allowing them the resources to sign Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson last year, in addition to trading for Zack Greinke. But as we've seen so far this offseason, general manager Jerry Dipoto doesn't seem to be working with an unlimited budget.
Pitchers Dan Haren and Ervin Santana have been trimmed from the roster along with outfielder Torii Hunter, as the Angels marshal their resources toward re-signing Greinke despite being saddled with the $42 million owed to Vernon Wells through 2014.
As Wendy Thurm outlined for FanGraphs, the Angels' TV deal almost looks paltry in comparison to what the Dodgers will likely end up getting. The Angels' agreement with Fox Sports West was for $2.5 billion over 17 years, averaging out to $147 million per season.
It is important to note that the agreement is still being negotiated and thus not official yet. The Dodgers and Fox Sports could settle on a deal by the end of this week (Nov. 30), according to Shaikin's report. If the two sides don't agree to a contract this week, the Dodgers could present Fox with a final offer next week. The network would then have 30 days to accept or reject the terms.
If negotiations were to eventually fall through with Fox, the Dodgers could then try to open discussions with Time Warner Cable SportsNet or launch their own channel, as the New York Yankees did with YES Network. But as Thurm's article details, the deal with Fox is the one that would yield galactic amounts of money.
With that kind of cash at their disposal—especially if the Dodgers and Fox reach an agreement before the MLB winter meetings begin next week—just how many of the top free agents can the Dodgers be expected to corral during this offseason and in years to come?
The Dodgers are viewed as the favorite to sign Greinke, who's looking for a six- to seven-year deal at $25 million per season that would make him the highest-paid pitcher in baseball.
For most every other team in baseball, that's the kind of contract that would make a general manager evaluate just how much payroll can be devoted to one player (see above with the Angels).
The general sentiment seems to be that the Dodgers won't be beaten when it comes to money. GM Ned Colletti can afford to blow away any and all competition to get the player he and ownership want for the team.
However, if the Angels come close, perhaps Greinke will choose to stay with what's familiar. Or maybe the Texas Rangers, playing in a somewhat smaller media market, will feel more comfortable to him. If that's what Greinke chooses, he'll have likely turned down an offer that seemingly couldn't be refused.
But who's to say the Dodgers would stop at Greinke? Why not go after the top position player available? Is Josh Hamilton not a realistic possibility for the Dodgers with all of the money they presumably have to spend?
Of course, the situation is a little bit different with Hamilton. There's really not a spot to play him. Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are penciled in as the Dodgers' starting outfielders for next season. But with a gigantic payroll comes the luxury of signing players a team doesn't necessarily need or who represent an upgrade over what's currently on the roster.
There have been rumors of the Dodgers trading Ethier, who would likely interest any team looking for a power-hitting corner outfielder. Ethier's five-year, $85 million contract would probably be too expensive for several clubs, though it's arguably fair-market value for a comparable player.
Perhaps the Dodgers would even eat some of the money on the contract if it meant clearing a spot for Hamilton. That's another luxury that the Dodgers' TV deal would allow. A smaller-market team couldn't afford to pay someone to play someplace else.
As ESPN's Buster Olney reports, no favorite has emerged to sign Hamilton because teams aren't willing to offer him more than a four-year contract. That could bring his asking price down, allowing teams like the Milwaukee Brewers, Baltimore Orioles or Seattle Mariners to take a shot at the best free-agent hitter.
But it also presents another opportunity for the Dodgers to steamroll the competition with a mega-offer that Hamilton's other prospective suitors can't or won't match.
If the rest of MLB is feeling a bit dizzy, it's because the competitive landscape of the sport is tilting toward Chavez Ravine. All that TV money could throw off baseball's balance of power significantly.
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