In the early days of Hot Stove season, the Dodgers were criticized for not doing enough to improve their title chances. Then they went bonkers in the trade and free agency markets, and have since been criticized for doing too much. Sometimes there’s no pleasing people.
The highlights, with short commentary:
- Replaced Hanley Ramirez with Jimmy Rollins: As good a replacement for Ramirez as the Dodgers would find, particularly without blocking Corey Seager. Rollins is a massive defensive upgrade whose WAR (3.9) actually exceeded Hanley’s (3.5) last year. If J-Roll approaches his 2014 numbers this year, the drop off isn’t as significant as it might appear.
- Replaced Dee Gordon with Howie Kendrick: Less speed, but a better second baseman and a stronger, more consistent bat. Gordon’s speed may be more exciting, but Kendrick is a better player.
- Traded Matt Kemp to San Diego: Yasmani Grandal should provide more offense than A.J. Ellis, Joc Pederson should prevent more runs in center. Not an ideal return for someone of his name value, but Kemp was the only player who could simultaneously declutter the payroll and the outfield.
- Signed Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson: Both are health risks, but should they stay off the DL (a better bet with McCarthy), the Dodgers have a great chance at significantly better production than typically provided by fourth and fifth starters. The Blue don’t have anyone in the Minors capable of bolstering a Major League rotation, so they filled the holes with money.
The bullpen remains an issue, but the cleanup is in full swing. The Dodgers DFA’d Brian Wilson and his jumped-the-shark facial hair schtick, are reportedly shopping Brandon League, and look ready to attack the problem with quantity, adding Joel Peralta, Chris Hatcher, Juan Nicasio, Mike Bolsinger, Adam Liberatore, partridges and pear trees to the major and minor league depth charts.
Will they pan out? Don’t know, but throwing big money at bullpen arms is risky business, as the Dodgers learned with… Wilson and League.
When Mark Walter and the Guggenheim Partners purchased the Dodgers, team president/CEO Stan Kasten insisted the spending jag wouldn’t last forever, and ultimately the Dodgers would work to build from within. When Andrew Friedman was hired, the idea was to create greater organizational flexibility and balance, promoting sustainable, long-term success.
The Dodgers won 94 games last year, and if the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t renew their yearly voodoo curse on Clayton Kershaw, might have gone to the World Series. Are they better than 94 wins now? Who knows, but every move they’ve made serves larger stated organizational goals.
The big money free agent treadmill is a bad place to be in baseball. At some point, the Dodgers had to get off so their prodigious financial resources can remain effectively weaponized. Too much dead money, and even the Blue would have to shut the checkbook. That was the plan, and the Dodgers are aggressively committed to it.
Meanwhile in El Segundo…
It is totally unfair to say the Lakers don’t have a plan. They absolutely do. Horde cap space and see which big time free agent(s) can be seduced by max contract offers and everything else they, and the city, have to offer.
Sun in February, good looking women, excellent produce, championship heritage, and ancillary marketing opportunities, just to name a few. Spin the wheel, hope one of those guys — this summer, Marc Gasol, Rajon Rondo, and LaMarcus Aldridge most notably — buys into the promise of glory with the NBA’s signature franchise. What you want, we can get, because we have the financial flexibility.
That is, in fact, a plan — a step past Kobe Bryant recruitment breakfasts, but only barely — and by every indication the Lakers are aggressively committed to it.
I hate The Plan. It values expiring contracts, like the one essentially created when the Lakers re-signed Jordan Hill last summer as a major component of roster building at a time when, thanks to the shorter deals mandated by the latest CBA, expiring contracts have never had less value.
It values cap space in a world where, again thanks to the new CBA, it’s harder than ever to get guys to switch teams because of all the money they have to leave on the table. It means no long term commitments (save, apparently, Nick Young), to quality non-stars at a time when virtually all the evidence shows Big Time Free Agents want an infrastructure they can join to complete a championship caliber team.
The Plan meant no play for Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas, Greg Monroe, or Lance Stephenson – young players capable of eventually forming the supporting cast for a star, or moved in other franchise molding deals down the road.
There is plenty more to dislike about how the Lakers have approached their rebuild, most importantly the unwillingness to fully dedicate themselves to it. They won’t do anything heroic to save this season (though nobody let Byron Scott know, insofar as Kobe’s minutes are concerned) and (it can only be hoped) the Lakers will be aggressive at the trade deadline trying to flip whatever assets they have for whatever they can get.
Next Page: Lakers Can Learn From The Dodgers