To call the Los Angeles Dodgers a flawed team would be like calling a rotting brown banana just a day or two old. When it comes to defending the club, the same tired argument constantly references the fact that the team can simply print money and improve the roster just by writing a check. There has been no attempt to dispute that and you certainly won’t find it here, even if there will be more than a few changes in how this team spends in the Andrew Friedman era.
The Dodgers were the only Major League Baseball club with a payroll in excess of $300 million for the 2015 campaign. For a team that is playing the golf with the World Series on deck, disappointing doesn’t begin to describe the 2015 season. There is a glaring need for better balance when it comes to asset distribution, and that was a clear priority before starting pitcher Zack Greinke’s decision to opt-out of his contract and test free agency. If the Dodgers are intent on Greinke returning, and that doesn’t seem likely, the team would probably be looking at about $60 million annually invested in two players with Clayton Kershaw already locked on a long-term deal.
Writing for ESPN Los Angeles, Mark Saxon reports that Greinke’s days with the Dodgers are all but over.
Dodgers president Stan Kasten has a fairly blanket rule about extending pitchers beyond a certain number of career pitches, according to sources, which will ensure the entire organization is united in the resolve to let Greinke walk, difficult as that might prove to be. Owner Mark Walter said after Game 5 he would leave the Greinke decision in his baseball peoples’ hands, so it doesn’t sound like a late, emotional push will cause the Dodgers to offer what the front office considers an unwise contract.
If the market falls apart for Greinke, which seems unlikely given his brilliance in 2015 and overall track record, the Dodgers will listen, but it seems as if his days as a Dodger are probably over.
Despite the need to look externally to find a few potential answers, the Dodgers have internal concerns to address, as well. Don Mattingly is out as manager—a move that the franchise wasted no time making—and Los Angeles will be under intense pressure to identify the proper lead man for the next several years. Will Yasiel Puig, after being banished to the bench upon finally getting his hamstring healthy, have a long-term future in Los Angeles? Howie Kendrick, who really helped to set a tone for this team that was desperately needed, is slated for free agency. Justin Turner, a career utility man who has made a name for himself as the Dodgers starting third baseman, is due for a large raise in arbitration. The bullpen, an issue that has seemingly haunted the team for the last 407 seasons, has to actually be thought of as an important part of the game and be addressed appropriately. Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier—two players who if combined into one human being would produce like a good-not-great talent—are making nearly $40 million between them in 2016 alone.
We still haven’t dissected all of the issues, and clearly there is plenty to sort out.
The Dodgers’ offseason could move in a variety of directions, but it’s unlikely that the club will fill all of its holes all at once. Clearly prioritizing the strengthening of their own internal system so the team doesn’t have to continue to look outside for help, Los Angeles’ new front office is attempting to build a more sustainable future while simultaneously competing in the present. A very tough road for most teams to drive down, this is where the Dodgers being flush with cash helps their ability to have a competitive advantage over the field.
It’s not just about the ability to spend money anymore. Having a fat wallet certainly helps you gain entry at the poker table, but no longer is it the trump card it once was to land a coveted player. When the Dodgers hired Friedman to run the franchise, Los Angeles welcomed a new era that it hadn’t seen prior.
But the demand to win hasn’t gone anywhere, and every night this is a team that plays under the spotlight on one of the game’s biggest stages. Injuries aren’t an excuse, underachieving isn’t welcomed and disappointment leaves a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth.