The Los Angeles Dodgers had an active offseason following a cataclysmic ending to 2012. In March 2012, the Guggenheim Partners purchased the Dodgers from embattled owner Frank McCourt for $2.15 billion. The Dodgers ownership group began a massive overhaul adding big names and big contracts. The spending has put the Dodgers over the top. In total payroll, that is, their projected 2013 payroll now tops even the Yankees.
In July 2012 the overhaul began by acquiring shortstop Hanley Ramirez during Jeffrey Luria’s Miami Marlin firesale. Ramirez is a world class talent, as evidence by his 2007 through 2009 seasons. During those seasons he posted OPS numbers of .948, .940 and .954. But his numbers have been in decline since. Even so, his 24 HR/92 RBI/ 21 SB stat line still rank him as a top shortstop.
In August of 2012, Red Sox relieved themselves of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford. Gonzalez managed to drive in 108 runs in 2012, but 18 home runs and a .463 slugging percentage were his lowest totals since 2005. Beckett struggled in 2012 going 7-14 with a 4.65 ERA, but did have a strong 2011.
Crawford spent two difficult years in Boston, appearing in only 161 games with the Sox, hitting 14 home runs and stealing 23 bases between 2011 and 2012. He will be replacing Shane Victorino, who signed with Boston in the offseason.
The combined value of the four big contracts the Dodgers received in the two trades is close to $300 million.
The Guggenheim Partners weren’t finished spending. In December, the Dodgers signed starting pitcher Zack Greinke to a six year $145 million contract. He will the number two starter behind ace Clayton Kershaw. Greinke went 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP in 2012. For his career he a 1.25 WHIP and strikes out nearly a batter per inning.
To fill the third slot in the rotation, the Dodgers signed Ryu Hyun-jin from the Hanwha Eagles of the Korean Baseball Organization. Ryu, a 6’2” lefty, is a seven time KBO All-Star with a lifetime record of 98-52 with a 2.80 ERA in Korea. The posting fee and six year contract cost the Dodgers $61 million.
Chad Billingsley had a 10-9 record with a steady 3.55 ERA in 2012, but his season was cut short by an elbow injury. Billingsley received platelet rich plasma (PRP) treatment to avoid season ending surgery on the elbow. The Dodgers are hopeful he will be ready in spring training.
J.P. Howell is a steady left handed relief pitcher who spent 2012 with Tampa Bay. He appeared in 55 games, pitched 50.1 innings with a 3.04 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. Howell signed a $2.85 million one year deal and joins a loaded bullpen.
Don Mattingly may be in charge of MLB’s version of Romper Room. Ramirez has sulked and feuded with managers and Gonzalez sniped at manager Bobby Valentine last year. In 2011, Beckett was more interested in clubhouse beer than important stretch drive games.
The amount of money Dodgers ownership has spent is staggering. Ramirez and Gonzalez appear to be declining, and Gonzalez is owed $115 million over the next six years. Crawford could rebound with a change of scenery, but $102 million dollars over the next five years for a legs player turning 32 in August is quite a risk.
Greinke is an excellent pitcher, but his career ratios don’t justify the massive contract. If Greinke is worth $145 million, they might as well give Clayton Kershaw the deed to Dodger Stadium and a blank check when its his turn to get paid after the 2014 season. And signing a foreign player like Ryu to such a huge deal is always a monumental risk.
The Dodgers may be the most intriguing team entering the 2013 season. They are talented enough to challenge for a World Series title, but also have the potential to be an epic,Titanic-like disaster. With their talent they should be favored to win the NL West. However, time and time again, we have seen cobbled together teams with big names and big contracts fail. How this talented team handles adversity could be the difference between contending and flopping.