Dodgers pay up, pick up stars in megadeal
Willing to add payroll, LA acquires Adrian, Beckett, Crawford, Punto
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers' new ownership group said there is a limit to how much money they are willing to spend. They just don't know exactly what that number is after pulling off the largest trade in Dodgers history -- receiving Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto, along with more than $260 million in payroll obligations, from Boston in a nine-player deal.
L.A. will send first baseman James Loney, top pitching prospect Allen Webster, infielder Ivan De Jesus and two players to be named to the Red Sox, who are including $12 million, according to a baseball source, to offset the amount of salary changing hands in the trade. Reports have said Rubby De La Rosa and Jerry Sands will finish off the deal.
"I haven't found [a cap] yet, but I'll let you know if we get there," owner Stan Kasten said. "We really do evaluate those things secondarily. We think the most important thing is building a team."
That team that the Guggenheim Baseball Management group, fronted by Kasten, Mark Walter and former Lakers star Magic Johnson, is one that becomes an instant World Series contender for this season and many more to come, as the new ownership is committed to bringing the Dodgers back to prominence.
The Dodgers, not far removed from bankruptcy and the Frank McCourt era, now boast one of the most feared teams in baseball with the addition of players who have combined for 11 All-Star Games, four Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, a World Series MVP Award and an All-Star Game MVP Award.
"You have to be thinking about today, tomorrow, a month from now, five years from now," general manager Ned Colletti said. "I think you have to be aggressive. You can't be reckless. You have to be relentless and you have to think creatively out of the box.
"For a while, we weren't really able to do that."
The team came close to pulling off the trade before the July 31 Deadline, and remained in talks with the Red Sox over the next few weeks despite the challenges that came with players needing to clear waivers.
The blockbuster trade with Boston is now just another in a long line of moves the organization has made since the team was sold for more than $2 billion less than four months ago.
First, the new ownership signed Andre Ethier to an $85 million extension, and then inked Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig to a $42 million, seven-year deal earlier this season.
Before the July 31 Deadline, the Dodgers added shortstop Hanley Ramirez, outfielder Shane Victorino and pitchers Randy Choate and Brandon League. Not long after, the team acquired righty Joe Blanton.
All in all, the team has acquired six former All-Stars over the past month in Gonzalez, Beckett, Crawford, Ramirez, Victorino and League. Colletti said the recent moves essentially equate to the team's free agency.
On top of the eight-year, $160 million contract Matt Kemp signed this winter, the Dodgers are quickly becoming the Yankees of the West with an expanding payroll.
But is payroll a worry?
Not exactly, as Walter said money comes after making baseball moves that will make the Dodgers better and enhance the fan experience. Walter, Kasten and Johnson all mentioned how the goal from Day 1 was to rebuild the Dodgers no matter the cost.
"I believe this is one of the most iconic brands of all time, and there is a lot of value here," Walter said. "We do believe we are a top quality team that is a very high quality product. I think that goes beyond just winning."
"We understand you have to spend money, and believe me, we understood that before we bought the team," Johnson said.
The team spent most of the season playing with a mix-and-match lineup of callups and castaway veterans as both Kemp and Ethier spent time on the disabled list.
The Dodgers would not have made the playoffs if the season had ended Friday, as they trailed the Giants by three games in the NL West and sat 1 1/2 games out of the NL Wild Card, with Atlanta and St. Louis ahead of them.
"The names in the lineup are different, but my job stays the same to put these guys in the best possible situation," manager Don Mattingly said.
Gonzalez is a significant upgrade from the first-base platoon of Loney and Juan Rivera, who have both underachieved this year.
The 30-year-old Gonzalez, who is in the second year of a $154 million contract through 2018, is of Mexican heritage, and he provides a marketable face for the Latin community in Los Angeles. Gonzalez batted .300 with 15 homers and 86 RBIs in his second season with the Red Sox after five with the Padres.
"Adrian, to me, is if not the best first baseman in baseball, he's one of the premier first baseman in baseball," Mattingly said. "I got a chance to see him in San Diego. That guy has a pure stroke, great defender with an understanding of the game. He's got all the attributes."
Like Victorino and Blanton, Beckett provides playoff experience with a 7-3 record and 3.07 ERA in 14 postseason games (13 starts). However, the two-time World Series winner comes with some issues off the field, and he has underachieved greatly this season, going 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA in 21 starts.
Nevertheless, Beckett is just one year removed from going 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA, and he is a former 20-game winner. Fittingly, he was acquired by the Red Sox from the Marlins for Ramirez.
The 32-year-old righty is owed $15.75 million over the next two seasons, and he joins NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw in a rotation that is missing suddenly-hot Chad Billingsley, who left Friday's game with a tender right elbow. Colletti said Beckett comes in at a great time, as Billingsley was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
As for Crawford, the speedy outfielder just had Tommy John surgery this week, but is expected to be ready for Opening Day 2013 after an expected 7-9 month recovery period. He disappointed in his first season with the Red Sox after signing a seven-year, $142 million contract that has five years remaining.
Crawford, 31, batted just .255 with only 18 steals last year, but he had stolen at least 50 bases five times in his career with Tampa Bay as one of the game's top leadoff men.
Not expected to re-sign Victorino now, the Dodgers still have four outfielders signed to long-term deals, with Puig already at Double-A and possibly able to play in the big leagues in the next few seasons.
Loney had spent his entire career with the Dodgers after being selected by them in the first round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. He had back-to-back 90-RBI seasons in 2008-09, but his production has tailed off since. He is hitting just .254 with only four homers and 33 RBIs this season.
Colletti acknowledged the farm system, especially in the pitching department, has taken a hit, but he believes the team is in decent shape. He and Kasten were both hopeful to rebuild it and find top young prospects in the coming years as the new crop of Dodgers play out their contracts.
As to whether the team is done spending money this season, it's hard to tell with this new Dodgers regime.
"We're done until the next one," Colletti said.
Alex Angert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.