The Dodgers Were Right to Pass on Cueto

“Don’t mistake activity with achievement.” –John Wooden, former UCLA Basketball Coach

In sports, much like life, doing is not always achieving. Sometimes holding back, restraining oneself, and planning for the future is the key to success. What many in the sports field, whether fan or professional, are forgetting is what history has proven in hindsight. It is a lack of trust in building something great.  It is the practice of letting go and disregarding the plan to action too soon.

In that regard, Larry King needs some perspective. However, King is not unlike any other sports fan. He is letting his passion cloud his judgment because he has grown close to a team and its players. He is not thinking with his brain, but his heart.

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What we need to be focused on is why the Front Office of the Los Angeles Dodgers is forgoing signing various free agents. The following quote comes to mind: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results,” which is often attributed to Albert Einstein.

The Dodgers, for years, have signed big name players to huge contracts and for what? How many championships have the Dodgers won since 1988? Zero. Nada. None. Therefore, the definition of insanity would be continue to spend massive amounts of money on free agents and trade away controllable players before or in their arbitration years to land soon to be free agents and expect a different result, like winning a championship. Not going to happen. Accept it.

Exhibit A: Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants, and St. Louis Cardinals. Which raises a great question, why are Cardinals fans not going crazy over a “lack” of free agent signings? Because they trust in the front office to perform. Because they get it.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Money does not win championships. Winning in December at the Winter Meetings does not equal Winning the Fall Classic.

We need to give Andrew Friedman and his team a chance to perform. Remember, this is only the beginning of his second year on the job.

With the above being said, here are SEVEN things the Los Angeles Dodgers did by passing on Johnny Cueto:

1. The Dodgers are waiting for the rest of their Division and Major League Baseball to catch up to their spending limits. The Dodgers had a $300 million dollar payroll in 2015 and paid $40 million dollars in luxury tax, which the Diamondbacks and Giants likely used a portion of to sign Zach Greinke and Johnny Cueto. The disparity between the Dodgers and the second ranked team is nearly $100 million dollars.

That hurts the Dodgers.  Unless you like to practice insanity, if something hurts without a quantifiable return, like burning your hand on the stove, you want to try to avoid doing that again.

Here are two additional articles regarding payroll: here and here. Pay careful attention to what teams made the playoffs, who made it to the World Series, and who won the World Series. Enjoy.

2. The Dodgers’ four rivals in the National League West are now strapped for cash and talent with simultaneous high performance standards from their fans. Hmm. Never a good combination. The Dodgers, by outspending and out-trading their rivals in 2015 have forced their competitors to make counter-reactions for 2016, hopefully to their competitor’s detriment.

Never underestimate a front office driven by experience, numbers, and market value backed by Wall Street and Ivy League knowledge. The Dodgers now have the young, controllable talent, roster flexibility, and the cash and talent to execute a trade down the road (like at the All-Star break, which has been a problem for lack of resources the past few seasons). What happens when we combine the above with the Dodgers front office talent?  Well, this is going to be a fun ride.

3. The Dodgers took the Giants and the Diamondbacks out of the Kenta Maeda bidding. When the Diamondbacks and Giants “outspent” the Dodgers in both years and total dollars to sign Cueto and Greinke, both teams were forced, in essence, to pass on Maeda. The Diamondbacks and Giants, with the offensive changes needed to their line-up cards, cannot afford Maeda with their new and existing contracts on the books.

And what is not to like about Maeda?  Maeda is two years young than Cueto, four years younger than Greinke, and with more consistent pitching performance and a lower ERA than both by a large margin (albeit while pitching in the Japanese Baseball League/Nippon Professional Baseball). Even with the $20 million dollar posting fee, Maeda’s price tag in years and dollars is likely to be exponentially less than Greinke, David Price, or Cueto.

What’s more, Los Angeles is a great market for a Japanese pitcher in terms of assimilation and, of course, marketing. Think Yasiel Puig, but much larger in terms of popularity based on the Japanese community in Los Angeles.

The above being said, we would not be surprised if the Dodgers passed on Maeda because more recently Japanese and Korean pitchers have come with arm and shoulder troubles.  Think Hyun-Jin Ryu (Dodgers), Masahiro Tanaka (New York Yankees), Yu Darvish (Texas Rangers), and Daisuke Matsuzaka (Boston Red Sox).

Still, though, the possibility at doing so is our focus.  The flexibility is crucial here and in years moving forward.

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Jeremy Evans

Jeremy M. Evans is the Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clientele. Evans is an award-winning attorney and industry leader based in Los Angeles.


  1. The biggest complaints during the past two seasons were that we couldn’t hit the ball and lack of reliable relievers. Perhaps Andrew and Zaidi are going in this direction to pick up and replace aging outfielders. I don’t see Eithier(thanks tho) coming back, Crawford is trash. Van Slyke could be an everyday guy.
    Yes we lost our second Ace and boy was it great to watch, but we still are fielding the same team essentially that won can win the west once again.

  2. Van Slyke would be a good everyday… Somewhere else. He’s an average defender and yes he can absolutely crush the ball but he tends to swing at a lot of bad pitches. He should be a good trade piece.

  3. Well let’s see. Horible aging outfield, except question mark puig and 210 hitting joc. Questionable 3rd base and shortstop, no second base at all, aging 1st base questionable catching, no bullpen except closer and questionable starting pitching. That pretty much sum up the 2016  dodgers? Ah but we have prospects!

  4. This article would give me some “hope” if the past trades this front office weren’t such duds.  The Dodgers have some benefits from the trades but most ended up failing in the roles the team needed the most.  The trade of Dee Gordon was disappointing to me because the running game is sorely lacking with the Dodgers.  It appears that the American League coaching styles we’re shoehorned into the dugout and the results were mostly apparent during critical coaching strategies.  Mr. Evans paints a good picture but it has little ability to instill confidence.  Forgiveness and looking the other way are much easier when you’ve experienced some success in the past. ” This is only the 2nd year” is not a pardon, its an excuse.  If the front office wants Dodger fans to blindly follow them into the staff they mingle together they better shock us with their trading talents and find the “hidden gems” they say they are trading for.  They haven’t done that so far.  Maeda is not even realistic as a point of discussion in order to down play the loss of Greinke and Cueto to teams in the same division.  BLAH! Point Not Made.

  5. We get carried away with “prospects”.  Out of our “outstanding” prospects in the last 10/12 years we have Clayton  and ??? The failure rate of a first round pick is approx 50%. The failure rate of price is?? Figure out which 3 or 4 of our prospects may make it and use the others to aquire some additional talent. Let’s not forget joc (although it may be early) but top prospects that crash and burn rarely come back after the league figures them out.
    And if I hear about year 2018 once more I will puke

  6. nodrog60 Really? I am guessing you just started following baseball last year because Dodgers almost always have homegrown players that end up being all-stars. 

    Ever heard of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier? How about Chad Billinglsey? Dee Gordon, maybe? I am sure you know of Kanley Jansen and Jonathan Broxton, right? and…. I am SURE you know Corey Seager and Joc Pederson, correct? 

    Let me know when you find another franchise or team that can produce this many talented players and more without having a top 10 pick in the past 20 years OTHER THAN Clayton Kershaw (#7 overall in 2006). 

    Do some research before you spew nonsense.

  7. WenSheld Dee Gordon trade may not look good to the casual fan (like yourself) but it provided the Dodgers a lot of depth in 2015 instantly. They were able to swing Andrew Heaney for Howie Kendrick (BA .295 as everyday 2B); Enrique Hernandez filled in a lot for Howie and Turner and batted .307 with 7 HR in 72 games. Oh and Enrique is only 23 y.o. Let’s not forget that Chris Hatcher was involved and he provided a 3.69 ERA in 49 appearances as middle relief. That’s an amazing win/win for both teams. So that’s already one good trade for the Dodgers by the front office. 

    Friedman actually pulled off an even better trade. Again, most casual fans only saw the biggest name and not anything else. Matt Kemp trade. Friedman sold Kemp at his peak value. Who did he get for an aging super expensive outfielder (still owed roughly $60 million until 2019)? YASMANI GRANDAL! All-star catcher this past season and he’s still 27 years old. Low average but high OBP player with power. Not to mention, Dodgers could still make even more off of that trade considering Zach Effin is still only 21 playing at AA level and Wieland is 25 and could be used as a middle reliever.   

    Thus far, Friedman is basically 2 for 2 on blockbuster deals. He’s so far held off on the urge to re-sign fan favorites like Zack Greinke and Hanley Ramirez at the end of their peaks. Greinke at 31 is not worth $32 million a year and Hanley signed for $22 million and he looks like he’s on the decline. 

    So I don’t know about people rooting for the Dodgers blindly but it seems to me most people are blind about how great Freidman has been in his 1st full year with the Dodgers so far.

  8. DodgerBlues WenSheld Casual fan?  By your standards maybe. I was born in LA and have followed the Dodgers even after moving the the enemy territory. (SF). I grew up watching the great Walt and Tommy days. So I’ll ignore your personal evaluation for now.  So you being a Friedman fan you point out the few great aspects of the trades.  Yasmani was a great pick up and I really like him.   Zach Eflin was traded to the Phillies for Rollins.  SO that is a moot point. Wieland MAY work something out but a 8+ ERA in 8 innings tells a story that I’m not ready to scream for.  Yes he is a control pitcher that could be a good late reliever but that is only scouting opinions that are a few years old.  Kike is a refreshing spirit and he reminds me of Oaklands Eric Byrnes so I’m waiting to see where he will lock into the 2016 team.  And LIKE Byrnes, I have a feeling that Kike will only excel if he plays more than 130 games in the year.  But I could be wrong.  I liked Kendrick … but lets talk about the Dodgers ex 2nd baseman Dee and what a loss that was.   Kendrick declined the Dodgers offer of 15.8 for one year so the Dodgers may not get him back. Hatcher seemed to have Mattingly’s faith and he worked out his issues to have a nice 2nd half.  But a new coaching staff may or may not have the same faith. We will see what roll Hatcher earns for 2016.  I believe he has a good chance in the bullpen. We can’t forget Latos. HUGE bust along with Johnson. Both are no longer a Dodger.  (and I was rooting for Johnson to turn it around) So forgive me for having an overly critical opinion about Friedman.  I’m sorry that my Dodger Blue blood isn’t up to snuff.  But try walking around in a Joe Ferguson Dodger jersey in San Francisco and you may see my source or annoyance with some of the recent “magic” that Friedman has done. I don’t get much credit with three first place finishes compared to 3 recent World Series.

  9. Dodger blues Really? We’re you having trouble following the conversation? My comments were about the high failure rate of first round picks and therefore prospects. I also where our “outstanding prospects” of the past 10/12 years were. You named Either, Kemp, and Gordon all fine 4th round draft picks and Janen (an undated free agent), but I don’t believe any of them were top 50 prospects. And the jury is out on Seger and Peterson. So if we have one first round, top prospect in 10/12 years how could we believe we have 4/5 front line pitchers in our farm system? Stats say 2 or 3 will bust. My point was let’s trade a few prospects and fix some of our problems now. And we have lots of them.

  10. nodrog60 Your posts are really incoherent so it is pretty difficult to follow. Dee Gordon was #26 and #46 top prospect. Corey Seager and Joc Pedersen were both in the top 10 prospects before 2015. And Kemp, Ethier and Jansen were all top 100 before being sent to the majors at a young age. That top 100 list is nice but it’s for the fans. Front offices have their own scouts and grade players on their own scales. 

    Once again, it is never smart to sell the whole farm to get one or two players. I never believed that spending a ton of money on one or two high profile free agents was a great idea either. I see many Dodger fans freaking out because our rivals in the Giants and Diamondbacks are buying players left and right and giving away top prospects. If you remember, same situation occurred last offseason with the Padres stacking their lineup with big names like Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, etc. Look how that turned out? Meanwhile, Royals have developed their team through their farm system while slowly acquiring pitchers via trades and filling in holes. That has resulted in multiple trips to the World Series. 

    Dodgers need to mimic that type of team build and that’s what Freidman is seemingly doing.

  11. DodgerBlues WenSheld WenShld, I respect your depth of knowledge and your analytical approach, though it would be more becoming if you didn’t feel the need to name call or put down those who disagree with you. 

    I think you’re viewing the Gordon trade through rose colored glasses. The Dodgers acquired some depth, but Hatcher basically had one good month and was pretty terrible before September. It’s not clear whether Hernandez is an everyday player. We will have a better idea when he gets his shot at the everyday second base job. Will he ever be as good as Gordon? I think we have to rate that trade as slightly in favor of Miami, with the possibility it will work out in the long term. 

    I agree Friedman did well spotting Grandal, although Grandal has a troubling tendency toward injury. Props also to the FO for rebuilding the farm system.

    But saying Friedman is “great” overlooks his many misjudgments.

    Emblematic are his efforts at building a starting rotation. He balked at the huge contract Max Scherzer got last year and understandably so. But then, in attempting to fill out the rotation he bungled repeatedly. The Brandon McCarthy signing was probably the worst FA signing of last year. Anderson paid off, but as his innings pitched mounted he fell apart. His terrible start in game 3 of the NLDS arguably was the key game in the series. Imagine if the Dodgers had had Scherzer starting that game. Then there were numerous pitchers acquired who were coming off injuries, like Beachy, and who contributed virtually nothing.

    But the crowning blow was the mid-season trade in which Friedman ate the $28 million bonus he’d just paid Hector Olivera, gave away other assets and wound up with the horrible Matt Latos, Johnson and Alex Wood, who is young and may improve but most likely is a number four pitcher at best.

    When you count up the salaries paid their players, players who played for other teams and bonuses and contracts paid for and discarded, the Dodgers spent almost $90 million last year for starters not named Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu. That’s not an efficient use of resources. Put another way, that would have paid for the first three years of Scherzer’s contract.

    Finally there is the Kershaw issue. Kershaw can opt out of his contract after the 2018 season. That gives Friedman a very real deadline. Kershaw desperately wants to win a World Series and if the Dodgers aren’t in position to do that by 2018, he will bolt for a team that gives him a better chance to win. Friedman will then be known as the guy who wasted Kershaw’s prime years building for an imagined future rather than going all out to win right away. Not a good legacy.

    Yes, it’s risky to pay big money, long term contracts to aging players. It shouldn’t be done often. But that doesn’t mean it should never be done. Look at what Epstein is doing in Chicago. He has a home-grown core, but is augmenting it with strategic free agent signings, some times at questionable terms (Zobrist). I would like Friedman to do the same. Relying strictly on your farm system is also a risk. Look at the Twins. Heck, look at the Rays. Not contenders. Even the Royals made major moves at the trade deadline last year to put them over the top.

    The Dodgers can afford to maintain a good farm system and indulge in free agency. The reason most fans are down on Friedman is that he seems to be following the same system he used in Tampa, which was to never sign big name free agents and to never trade prospects. But L.A. is not Tampa Bay. The goal there was to contend and keep down salaries. The goal here is to win a World Series. When confronted with this, he adopts a condescending tone and talks about the long term. But the fans are understandably impatient. If he can’t deliver in the next couple years, Friedman may not be around for the long term.

  12. Excellent article Jeremy, thanks. It gets so tiring to see reactionary, short-sighted fans who don’t see the big picture and buy into the sensationalism that the mediots propose.

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