If you can't grow 'em, buy 'em.
I'm pretty sure that's the saying. If not, that's what the Los Angeles Dodgers are interpreting it as. With the signings in the past 72 hours of Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Bums now have an annoyingly long list of starting pitchers. Alongside those two will be 2011 Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, one-time prodigy Chad Billingsley, your standard crafty lefties Ted Lilly and Chris Capauno, beer-guzzling and fried-chicken smacking Josh Beckett, and Aaron Harang.*
The "pundits" like to say that they're probably going to move one of Capuano or Harang, which would STILL give them seven starters with no real precedent for moving one of them to the bullpen.
A while ago I went into the details of the San Francisco Giants pitching payroll, and how they ranked fourth in cost of pitching staff in 2011, paying their pitchers roughly $45M for their services. In 2012 they moved up to third, paying $55.45M for the staff that won them the World Series. The Phillies had the most expensive rotation at just under $69.5M.
In 2013, the Dodgers are on the hook (right now) for $90.2M for their starting pitchers alone.
That number would be good for the 15th-highest payroll in the majors. Ahead of the Atlanta Braves ($83.3M), Cincinnati Reds ($82.2M), Baltimore Orioles ($81.4M), Washington Nationals ($81.3M), and the Oakland Athletics ($55.3M), all of whom made the playoffs last year. And that's just the starting rotation.
If they do decide to move one of the eight, what do they get in return?
An outfielder? To go with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig?
An infielder? Who fits in somewhere with Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Ellis, Dee Gordon, Jerry Hairston, Nick Punto and Luis Cruz? OK so maybe third base could use an upgrade. Let's not forget Juan Uribe is in the mix too.
More pitching? I laughed a bit, but then got bored. Three of their top five prospects are pitchers. They just signed Brandon League to join up with Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra at the back of the bullpen. They're good there.
The thing is, baseball fans have watched the New York Yankees do this for years. And to say that it doesn't work isn't completely true. I mean, since the Steinbrenners became the first payroll in the hundred-millions, the Yankees have won a few championships.
So the question comes back to, what is the point of all of this?
The point is, when the Yankees were buying up everything, they seemed to be focused on winning. They would get the best players who would produce. And for the most part, the Yankees have been pretty good at not getting hosed on deals. To put it in perspective, although they don't win the World Series every year, how many Barry Zito-sized "contract mistakes" have the Yankees made? Sure A-Rod is paid a kings ransom, but at least he produces. A.J. Burnett comes to mind, as does Rafael Soriano. But you catch my line of thought here.
On the west coast, however, it seems that the Dodgers are now showing the rest of the league what us Giants fans have known forever: they're just a bunch of bullies.
Sure, they want to win. Of course they want to win. But now everyone else is seeing that, no matter who owns the team, the Dodgers are mean, and spiteful, and they're out to get everyone.
Have a bunch of long contracts that you kind of regret? They'll take them. Ask the Red Sox. Have your eye on a nice-looking free agent out there? They're going to outbid you. Ask anyone looking at Greinke. Flashy international prospect? They'll outbid you there too. That's how they got Ryu and Puig.
When the Giants non-tendered closer Brian Wilson and the bearded one said that he'd be interested in playing for the Dodgers, it was just crazy enough that Los Angeles would jump at the opportunity to twist the knife in their arch-rivals backs. Juan Uribe? That kind of hurt my feelings, but then he was bad so it was OK. But if you have millions and millions and millions and millions to spend, why not sign away one of the faces of the franchise that you hate so much just to stir up some trouble?
They can do that. They have the money. And that's what's scary.
Luckily they also said they weren't interested in Wilson, which bodes well for my Giants-in-Dodger-Blue-induced asthma. But with the ownership group in the position that they're in, and supposedly more money on the way, the Dodgers are just going to keep doing it. They'll drive up the price in every bidding war just because they can.
Remember how the Giants got Cody Ross to block the Padres from getting him? Imagine that, but with every free agent on the market. It may be bad for baseball, but it's good for the Dodgers franchise, and it's good for the Giants-Dodgers rivalry.
It'll be even better if they keep on losing.
*Aaron Harang is not very exciting.