On Saturday evening, Mark George provided one Dodgers fan’s view of their impending ownership change and what it might mean for his team.
There was a quite understandable sense of relief that Frank McCourt’s tenure is finally going to come to an end, but the real positivity comes from the encouraging signs that the new ownership group, led by Magic Johnson, understands what the Dodgers mean to L.A. and are willing to do whatever it takes to make the team a World Series contender once again. It could well have been a case of ‘anyone but McCourt’, yet it looks like the Dodgers have ended up with something much better than simply a group that can earn goodwill by not being the previous owner.
While that might be good news for Dodgers fans, other teams may have greeted the news with much less enthusiasm. No longer will the big-market Dodgers be left picking at the ‘average at best’ bucket, they’ll be out in front on the free agent and trade market competing for premium talent.
Talk has already begun on who might be on L.A.’s shopping list over the next year as the new ownership group seeks to make a bold statement of intent and to show their fans that they really do mean business.
Coincidence or not, that talk has swiftly been followed by two of the Dodgers’ rivals making sure that their star players will not be snatched away any time soon.
It was no surprise that Joey Votto was immediately being tagged as one of the Dodgers’ biggest targets after the new owners missed the boat on fellow premium first basemen Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. Talks between Votto and the Reds regarding a contract extension had appeared to have stalled and that opened the possibility that Cincinnati would decide to trade him while his value was at his highest, with the Dodgers being the prime contenders to make a deal and then sign Votto to a lucrative multi-year contract.
It’s being reported that the Reds have now found the money to stop that process from unfolding. The deal had not been completed at time of writing, but reports were suggesting that Votto would end up with a contract worth in the region of $200m. That would be in line with the market value for one of the best bats in the game, but it would be a huge investment in a single player for Cincinnati. Did the looming Dodgers make the Reds push the boat out to make sure they kept hold of their marquee player?
Closer to L.A., fans of the Dodgers’ bitter rivals in San Francisco feared that the slow progress in contract talks with pitcher Matt Cain could lead to him playing out his final contract year and then heading off into Dodger blue. It was very noticeable that the Giants were quick to put out some positive news on the contract talks as soon as that prospect was being discussed and, sure enough, those talks have come to a successful conclusion with Cain receiving a five-year contract worth a reported $112.5m.
No sooner had news of that deal been reported than the future of Cole Hamels became another popular topic of conversation. Hamels is currently scheduled to become a free agent at the end of this season and while the Phillies clearly want to keep hold of him, their desire may be curtailed by the fact that they already have a substantial amount of guaranteed money to budget for over the next couple of seasons ($112.5m in 2013).
Hamels has already made it clear that, even though he wants to stay in Philadelphia, he isn’t keen on accepting a ‘home town discount’ to make that happen and the Phillies will be well aware that Cain’s contract has just set the market level that Hamels and his agent will be working around. Put simply, he’s not likely to accept anything less than Cain has just received and we’ll have to wait and see whether the Phillies have the budget flexibility to match, if not better, that deal.
If not, there’s no prizes for guessing which team will have the most interest in bringing the pitcher from San Diego back to the west coast.
The Dodgers will soon be back as one of the biggest forces on the player market and, make no mistake, the reverberations are already being felt around the National League.