The 30-for-30 doc “Broke” offers a telling look inside the spiral that lands highly-paid athletes in bankruptcy mere months after their careers end and the paychecks stop. More than anything, it is the inability to make lifestyle adjustments that seems to trip these jocks up the most.
Spending is easy. When the money flows in so freely, why not just throw more money at your problems? It’s the perfect solution!
The Dodgers had a great season in 2013, though it started slowly. A lightning bolt by the name of Puig shocked the Dodgers back to life (though his arrival in the big leagues coincided nicely with Zack Greinke rounding into form after missing a month with a collarbone injury) and they rode high into the playoffs, eventually falling to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.
Though they didn’t achieve the ultimate goal, the season was a good one for LA. Well positioned as they might be in the NL West, their roster is not without question marks. Sure, they have too many outfielders right now, but is this is a blessing or a curse? The outfield situation is quite the opposite of the conundrum on the infield, where the talent is abundant but razor thin.
“Phase two” of the Dodgers plan for world domination has been much discussed. Get away from simply buying talent at market price, use their deep pockets to retain the worthy candidates long term, augment with free agency as required. Which is all well and good except the Dodgers are facing another mountain of problems at which they must throw money.
First and foremost is a possible Clayton Kershaw extension. The dominant lefty could easily become the first $300 million dollar player in baseball history, as his combination of age of excellence is all but unmatched in the wealthy fraternity of starting pitchers.
There is also the issue of Hanley Ramirez, angling for his own payday with free agency lurking around the corner at the end of the coming season. Hanley is fresh off an incredible season, posting more than 5 WAR in just 86 games. One of the few productive shortstops (like it or lump it) in the game, Hanley’s bat makes him an elite player even after age dispenses with the pretense of Ramirez in the middle of the diamond.
There is still the matter of competing in 2014, of course. And when it comes to competing, the Dodgers leave no stone unturned if it means shoring up a weakness. Thus their apparent/assumed/anticipated interest in Masahiro Tanaka.
The Dodgers pitching staff, when healthy, features more than enough starters to fill a traditional five-man rotation. Chad Billingsley is on the mend after Tommy John surgery and Josh Beckett is working his way back from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome so let’s conservatively put them down as “question marks” for 2014. Enter Tanaka? Rather than other international free agents, Tanaka is ready and willing to start the third or fourth game of the Dodgers season, provided they can get his name on a contract.
With Beckett’s contract coming off the books at the end of the season and a club option on Billingsley for 2015, it isn’t as though the Dodgers couldn’t use Tanaka in the coming years. As always, they throw money to make those two players disappear and suddenly there’s room for both #TANAK and Zach Lee, the top pitching prospect in the Dodgers pipeline.
But it wasn’t supposed to be like this in LA. If the season doesn’t end the way they want, can they keep pushing “phase two” back until they achieve the ultimate goal and begin shedding salaries?
For all their spending, the Dodgers still have questions to answer. They have four outfielders with excellent track records but they have nobody, save Matt Kemp, to play centerfield. The same Matt Kemp that probably won’t start his Spring Training until mid-March. The same Matt Kemp who played just 73 games last season.
An aging team with injury-prone players at many key positions, with only Dee Gordan and Justin Sellers for cover and an untested Cuban free agent Alexandre Guerrero. Though they did pretty well with their previous “untested Cuban free agent”, didn’t they? (After more than a year in the minors, of course.)
Depth always matters. A team built on stars can excel but always stand mere inches from the dreaded “…and scrubs” reality. Last season, the Dodgers entered the year in a nearly identical situation with too many starters and enviable outfield depth. Within six months they gave Stephen Fife ten starts, signed Edison Volquez, and traded some of their prospect capital for Ricky Nolasco.
They let Luiz Cruz start 30 games between short and third even with Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker were in the infield mix. Now those veterans are gone, as Mike Petriello pointed out at the previously-linked Fangraphs piece.
Where there was once depth there is only hope. Hope seems like the kind of thing $200 million buys insurance against, but apparently not. The Dodgers can keep throwing money at their problems but as Spring Training creeps closer and closer, the number of viable recipients of their charity gets few and fewer.
Not a reason for panic but cause enough for…concern in Baseball Heaven. Fortunately for the Dodgers, there are always other teams overpriced mistakes to swallow once the season begins. Wouldn’t Jimmy Rollins look nice in Dodger Blue? It could happen, it would just take a lot of green.