You’ve heard the news by now. MLB has taken over the Dodgers day-to-day operations, wresting it from Frank McCourt, who nearly had to take a $30 million loan to meet payroll obligations.
Amazin Avenue has a great breakdown of teams in similar dire circumstances and there are two major examples: the Expos in 2001 and the Rangers in 2009. The Expos owner at the time, though (one Jeffrey Loria), up and left the team and no one was willing to buy them and the Rangers situation wasn’t dire enough to force MLB to control the team (though Selig threatened it. More about the Expos from that Amazin’ article:
In 1999, art dealer Jeff Loria bought the team and made things worse with bad personnel moves (spending way too much on middling free agents like Hideki Irabu) and worse business moves (failing to secure English language broadcast rights). He also failed to secure public funding for a new ballpark in downtown Montreal, and rumblings that the team would be moved began in earnest.
In other words, terrible, costly moves cost the team more money which was eventually the reason the team moved to DC (damn you, Loria).
The Dodgers do have some things going for them, so this won’t be as brutal as the Expos, but it won’t be as seamless as the Rangers.
So what’s the first thing that’ll happen?
Cost-cutting. And yes, we’re talking about the MLB payroll.
It certainly won’t be pretty, but the only young, talented player the Dodgers lose to FA after this season is Jonathan Broxton. That’s the fortunate thing. The bad news is that Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Jamey Carroll, Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla will be gone too. That’s three position spots to fill and two starters.
The line up will look like this:
C AJ Ellis/Barajas again?
2B Uribe/Ivan DeJesus
3B Uribe/cheap FA guy
LF Sands/Tony Gwynn Jr.
SP Fill-in/de la Rosa?
RPs staying for sure: Blake Hawksworth, Kenley Jansen, Hong-Chih Kuo, Matt Guerrier.
Which, effectively, isn’t all that bad. Really depends on the replacement players that are brought in.
In the event of a freaking panic fire sale, which isn’t altogether likely, but not out of the picture, things get more complicated.
Of those that are going to arbitration this coming off-season:
Tony Gwynn Jr.
Arb 3 (final year)
In the 2011 year, Rafael Furcal is making the most money ($13 million), followed by Kuroda ($12 million), Ethier ($9.5), Lilly ($8.2) and Kemp ($7.1).
Of people who’ll potentially be back in 2012, Lilly is the biggest money maker at $11.5 million–whether he gets traded until then remains to be seen. Ethier’s the second biggest in the group (likely $10 mil in 2012). After that, Billingsley (9 mil), then Uribe (8 mil), then Kemp (likely > 7.1 mil).
I know almost everyone who’s a fan of the Dodgers is praying for Uribe to be traded off, but that’s not happening for two reasons: 1) nobody goddamn wants him for that price tag and you’re delusional if you think otherwise and 2) organizational depth is shallowest at the three positions Uribe plays: 2B, SS and 3B.
On the flipside, it won’t be too hard to keep Kemp and Kershaw, the only problem is they’ll be the easiest to trade. Colletti will get the most phone calls about them and Kemp is the easier of the two to let go because he’ll be making more in 2012. Yes, this sucks. But Colletti has stuck to his guns on Kemp, so while I’d understand Kemp being traded away, I’d still be shocked if it happened.
Assuming the team’s core sticks together for next year, with all of the arbitration payoffs, the team’s payroll will likely be at $65-70 million, which is still too much, but trading away one of Ethier or Billingsley will balance that to about $60 million. Add in a few minor league players and some waiver wire acquisitions and you have a full major league roster. The only real problem with this is if McCourt was so highly leveraged that the team still had to make payments on his debts, but declaring bankruptcy would be a good start in that case.
With market sharing, ticket sales and TV revenues, that’ll put the team into the manageable payroll area until the end of 2012, when basically everyone on the team is a free agent.
After that is complete chaos, but let’s hope it doesn’t get to that.
The best solution is clearly getting potential buyers organized ASAP and have the team sold by January 1, 2012.
In conclusion, it’s possible that an MLB-run Dodgers squad can at least keep together the best players on the squad for the next year and maybe a bit more–at least ideally. But in practice, that’s a little more difficult. The three big questions are:
- How fast is MLB going to act to cut costs? (The answer is probably immediately)
- How dramatic will those cuts be?
- And what will be the market be for trading away players?
I get the feeling the market for pitchers will be better than the market for OFs at the trade deadline or even before it. Of major contenders this year, the Giants and Phils seem to be the only two with a solidified staff. Meanwhile, the Rockies, Braves, Rangers, Yankees, Rays, White Sox, Twins and Tigers could use an SP of Kuroda or Lilly’s stature down the stretch.
So players who are likely gone: Lilly, Kuroda
Players who probably are gone: Ethier, Uribe (if anybody will take him)
Players who might be gone, but probably not: Billingsley, Kemp
Players who are staying: Kershaw, James Loney, Jerry Sands
It seems the Dodgers’ scouting has served them well.
These cost-cutting measures also mean the team will draft at slot, which hurts Logan White and Dejon Watson quite a bit, but hopefully it’ll be only for one year.