"The first step is to take half of your $3 billion and buy a baseball team. The second step is to spend the other half on really, really good players." -- Magic Johnson
He may or may not have actually said that. I'm just guessing. But when the group led by Magic Johnson bought the Los Angeles Dodgers for a record price, they did indicate they would invest in the team's payroll.
Other teams are doing it. It's not just the Yankees. The Angels invested a lot of money into Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. You see what the Tigers just did with Prince Fielder. Teams are investing. That's what you do when you put a winning team on the field. We're not going to be any different from those teams.
The Dodgers have a malleable roster, in that they don't have a lot of entrenched, can't-replace-'em players. If they want a high-priced third baseman, Juan Uribe is the competition. If they want a high-priced first baseman, James Loney would lose his job. If they want a starting pitcher, they have four spots to play with, give or take. The Dodgers have options if they want to throw money around.
And the options for the big free-agent splash in the offseason:
And the following season:
Joey Votto Ian Kinsler
- Tim Lincecum
- Matt Garza
- Hunter Pence
- Ubaldo Jimenez
- Barry Zito
- That guy with the hat
- Not that one
And we still have a ways to go before any of them are available. Contract extensions are the new rage, apparently. It's likely that some of the above players will sign extensions before they reach free agency. The Phillies are still very much interested in both Hamels and Victorino. The Rangers haven't ruled out Hamilton. The Giants have publicly expressed that Lincecum is a priority.
This isn't to suggest the Dodgers are hosed, or that their money isn't going to do any good. Far from it. There are good players who might not be household names, who could help a team without selling too many tickets. Spreading the money around -- in a way that doesn't involve 84 different utility infielders -- could certainly help the Dodgers.
But if we read too much into Johnson's comment, that the successful teams are the ones investing in the Albert Pujolses of the world, it sure looks like the Dodgers are setting themselves (and the casual fans they're hoping to attract) up for disappointment. It doesn't look like there's another Pujols coming down the chute. I see a few top-of-the-rotation starters up there, albeit with the perennial caveat. But I don't see any dominant offensive players, depending on your faith in Hamilton.
This is premature. I could see the Dodgers signing Hamels and Hamilton, thumbing their nose at the small-market teams, and giving a big contract to a fan favorite like Andre Ethier at the same time. That wouldn't be the equivalent of a Pujols or Alex Rodriguez signing, but it sure as heck would get the fans excited. There's still a chance for the Dodgers to throw their newfound financial heft around and sign a dynamic 1-2 punch.
What this is, then, is a reminder that building a team isn't as easy as buying all the best players. Not with players like Votto, Cain, Kinsler, and Phillips signing extensions in the last two weeks. It seems like a lot of the best players are going to stick with their teams for the near future, and there probably are some extensions yet to be signed.
More money is almost certainly a good thing for a franchise, but the Scott Boras store is running out of panaceas, and they might not be back in stock for a while.