If the rumblings around the baseball hot stove are to be believed, the Los Angeles Dodgers have made their first really troubling moves. According to numerous sources (like MLB.com), the Dodgers spent the weekend writing more checks with lots of zeroes, essentially signing right-hander Zack Greinke and Korean southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Congratulations, LA, you now have the National League West's attention.
It was one thing for the Bums to throw caution, money and a few prospects to the wind over the summer to land Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto and Hanley Ramirez (in a different deal). Crawford's contract is brutal while Beckett and Han-Ram have been taking on water for years. There is no denying that Gonzalez is a significant weapon, but he came with a lot of more-or-less dead weight.
Plus, all those glamorous names cost the Dodgers a decent price in potential.
Ivan DeJesus Jr.'s star has faded considerably, but he was once the gem of La La Land's farm system. The same can be said of Jerry Sands. Rubby De La Rosa is the real deal, and Tommy John surgery is no longer the career-killer it once was. Meanwhile, Allen Webster will only be 23 next year and has been making steady progress through the minors.
Sprinkle in the monetary cost of the swap with the Boston Red Sox, and it definitely wasn't cheap.
So, fine, Los Doyers had some pretty new pieces, but several were overpriced, and the moves depleted an already thin pool of next-wave talent.
The Greinke and Ryu deals, though? Those only took money from Los Angeles' coffers, which are in no danger of running low if stories like these are even close to accurate.
Furthermore, they address the only real need the denizens of Dodger Stadium had: pitching.
For all the fuss and fury raised over LA's offense, that was simply a freak thing. Talent was never the problem. I've said it before and I'll say it again: You can't force production through sheer talent, and a lineup featuring Matt Kemp, Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, Crawford and Ramirez has more than enough talent to score runs.
Grabbing additional bats would just be overkill...and that's cool, but only if you've addressed the actual frailties of the squad.
Which is what these latest signings do.
Ryu sounds like he's a wild card. Maybe he joins the rotation, maybe he comes out of the bullpen or maybe he flops. Worst-case scenario is he's a waste of (yawn) money.
Greinke is the golden goose here.
Although the reported deal of six years for $147 million would make him the highest paid righty in the history of Major League Baseball, Zack is most certainly not the best right-hander in the game today. So that contract would be preposterously inefficient, but again, the Dodgers would only be wasting (yawn) money.
And they are getting the best pitcher on the free-agent market as well as that elusive, bona fide ace to pair with Clayton Kershaw atop the rotation.
For a team that has made no secret about its willingness to spend cash like it's on fire, the move was almost a no-brainer. The only possible fly in the ointment was Greinke's history of struggles with social anxiety disorder, but apparently it wasn't a big fly.
Predictably, and not without justification, some in the media are now touting the Dodgers as the prohibitive favorites in the NL West.
Of course, we've been here before; just this summer, in fact.
When Los Angeles got Ramirez, it was supposed to be the beginning of the end for the rest of the division. When the blockbuster went through to bring half of Boston's payroll across the country, the other contenders were really in trouble.
Funny thing about baseball, though, it's not played on paper, and it's got an uncanny knack for turning logic on its ear.
For instance, take a look a the top payrolls in baseball since 2001 and how they compare with the payrolls of the various World Series winners (payrolls via USA Today):
|Year||Highest Payroll||World Series Champion (Payroll Rank)|
|2001||New York Yankees||Arizona Diamondbacks (eighth)|
|2002||New York Yankees||Los Angeles Angels (15th)|
|2003||New York Yankees||Miami Marlins (25th)|
|2004||New York Yankees||Boston Red Sox (second)|
|2005||New York Yankees||Chicago White Sox (13th)|
|2006||New York Yankees||St. Louis Cardinals (11th)|
|2007||New York Yankees||Boston Red Sox (second)|
|2008||New York Yankees||Philadelphia Phillies (12th)|
|2009||New York Yankees||New York Yankees (first)|
|2010||New York Yankees||San Francisco Giants (ninth)|
|2011||New York Yankees||St Louis Cardinals (11th)|
|2012||New York Yankees||San Francisco Giants (eighth)|
First, let's dispense with the obvious.
The Yankees have had the highest payroll for the past 12 years and have missed the playoffs a grand total of once in that span (2008). So one could argue that an enormous budget all but ensures you'll be playing postseason baseball.
Alas, judging from the rest of that chart, you won't be playing a ton of it.
Only three times in 12 years has a team with a payroll inside the top seven won the World Series. Exactly 50 percent of those who emerged from the Fall Classic as victors boasted payrolls outside the top 10 for the respective year.
This is all worth discussing because take a look at this chart (salaries via Baseball Reference):
|Zack Greinke (projected)||$22,000,000|
|TOTAL (11 players)||$171,750,000|
Let that sink in...over $171 million for eleven players.
That would've been the fourth-highest payroll in all of baseball this year and less than $30 million off the Yankees' $198 million payroll, tops in the game in '12.
For eleven players. As in, not even half of the 25-man roster.
At this rate, and there's no reason to believe the final trigger has been pulled, the final number is going to be astronomical.
If you're a fan or member of the organization, you should be ecstatic that the new ownership is putting its money where its mouth is and has finally plugged the team's most glaring hole. The bloated contracts and strip mining of the farm system aren't ideal, but the dollars seem to be infinite in Chavez Ravine so, eh, who really cares?
Especially when the Dodgers have assembled a dizzying array of names with frightening reputations.
They'll come chugging into the '13 MLB campaign fueled by massive hype and the game's biggest payroll. If history is any guide, the Bums should be virtual locks for the playoffs and they'll be expected to win a World Series title.
But that same guide suggests nobody should be surprised if their train gets derailed before it reaches the final destination.