Maybe you have wondered why the Dodgers didn’t spend much money over the past off-season. Maybe? You have absolutely wondered that if you are a Dodger fan. After all, the owners were getting a divorce and arguing over money and control, so that’s it – McCourt is bad and he won’t spend any money. Many fans have this position. I am here to tell you right now that conventional wisdom is usually wrong. However, in this case, it’s not conventional wisdom. It’s conventional “piling on”!
You all know that a A player with six or more years of major-league service (on the team’s 40-man roster) who is not under contract for the following season is eligible to file for free agency. Teams can receive compensation for the player with a draft pick in the following year’s draft in June. In order to receive compensation, the team must offer the player salary arbitration.
It is then up to the player to either accept arbitration or sign with another team. The team must offer salary arbitration to the player by early December or the team will not be allowed to negotiate with or sign the player until the following May 1. After arbitration is offered, the player has two weeks to accept or refuse salary arbitration. If it is refused, the player can only negotiate with the club until January 7th after which no more negotiation can take place until May 1st.
Top free agents are classified as Type A (the top 20 percent at their position as determined by the Elias Sports Bureau), Type B (between 21 and 40 percent at his position). If a Type A free agent who had been offered arbitration signs with another team, the team receives two first-round draft picks the following June – either a first- or second-round pick of the new team (depending on a team’s record the previous season) and a “sandwich” pick between the first and second rounds. Type B free agents earn just a “sandwich” pick.
If there are 14 or fewer Type A or Type B free agents available, no team can sign more than one type A or B player. If there are between 15-38, no team can sign more than two. If there are between 39 and 62, there’s a limit of three. However, teams can sign as many Type A or B free agents as they’ve lost, regardless of the limits above.
Now, think about this for a minute. If a Type A player like Wolf and Hudson refuses free agency, then the team who loses them get compensation. On the other hand, if they accept arbitration, it is binding. Do you actually think it would be fair that a team could “opt out” if the player got more than they wanted to pay? It is beyond foolish to think that has any root in reality. You should know better than that. A deal is a deal! There is no rescinding it ! If you offer arbitration, it is binding! Duh!
If the Dodgers had offered arbitration to Randy Wolf and Orlando Hudson, then they would be bound to have accepted the results, contrary to what some people on this board may think. They would have had to pay that player their number or the players number. No recourse!
Now that we all understand what could have happened if the Dodgers offered arbitration to Wolf and Hudson, let’s consider the underlying reasons why the Dodgers did not offer either of them arbitration. Wolf and Hudson were at the “right place at the right time” to both have made a fortune at arbitration. Randy Wolf was a good pitcher for the Dodgers in 2009, but he has never been all that. However, after stringing together some solid seasons, he qualified as a Type A Free Agent and was one of the top free agent pitchers in a very thin class of pitchers. The same can be said of Orlando Hudson. While he was never a perennial All-Star, he did win some Gold Gloves and made two All-Star appearances. O-Dog also qualified as a Type A Free Agent and was one of the Top 2B in baseball… but he wasn’t “all that” either. Randy Wolf and Orlando Hudson were good players, but if the Dodgers had offered them arbitration, there is a chance they would have accepted. What that chance was depends upon who you ask. It might have been 10% or it might have been 60% – no one knows, but here is what we do know:
If the Dodgers had offered arbitration to them and they had accepted, in all likelihood, here is what they might have asked: Wolf would have gotten $10-13 mil and Hudson would have gotten $8-11 mil. You can say that the Dodger’s Kim Ng wouldn’t lose, but it all depends upon what is asked and offered as well. I think the minimum the Dodger would have had to pay them both would have been $18 mil and the maximum may have been $24 million. To put that in perspective, the Dodgers could have signed CC Sabathia for that, and that’s what Ryan Howard just signed his new deal for.
The Dodgers have made the mistake in the past of signing who was available, not who was really needed. Juan Pierre, Jason Schmidt, Andrew Jones, even Jeff Kent were signings which maybe didn’t make sense. You don’t just look at who is available – you have to look at what you need. If Ned and Frank had not signed Schmidt, Jones and Pierre, you might just be looking a staff with CC Sabathia as ACE. What would make the Dodgers better – Hudson and Wolf or Sabathia or Hudson and Wolf or Ryan Howard (then you could trade Loney for pitching)? Forget these five-and-dime guys.
But, the Dodgers are blasted for not getting an ace. Wait a minute – they tried to get Cliff Lee – the Indians just liked the Phillies offer better. There was no chance Doc Halladay was coming to the Left Coast. Not in a million years! That left Lacky – no thanks. Good things come to those who wait. The Dodgers are waiting. They didn’t sign Wolf or Hudson because they know that something better is out there. It may be Cliff Lee next winter, or maybe by the All-Star Break. You don’t know. Zach Greinke could suddenly become available, if KC really stinks and wants a multitude of prospects to rebuild (again).
Don’t expect the Dodgers to tell you this. They can’t – it’s not something you share with your competitors, but when Ned says it’s business as usual, it is – in the sense that this is now the plan. The Dodgers won’t pay $15 – $18 mil for a player like Lackey, Schmidt, Jones, but they will pony up $20+ mil for a Cliff Lee or $25 mil for a Zach Greinke. You have to have both the Superstars and the Role Players. The Phillies are built that way with Utley, Howard, Rollins, Halladay and all the rest. I think they make a mistake in signing Raul Ibanez, because that might prevent them from re-signing Jason Werth. Ibanez was important to them last year, but this year he stinks, and they have to pay him one more year.
In three years, the Dodgers could have contract obligations of $65 million a year to three players – Kemp, Ethier and Kershaw. Frank McCourt knows that to build the empire he wants – he has to put a winner on the field. He can’t do it with players like nickel-and-dime players like Hudson and Wolf. He needs about 4 or 5 superstars, a strong farm system and some role players to plug in. Many have interpreted the fact that the Dodgers would not offer arbitration to Wolf and Hudson as Cheapness. Actually, it’s the opposite – the Dodgers are now in a position to trade for a big arm THIS YEAR. I believe the Dodgers could have a payroll closer to $120 mil by the end of the season.
Some people choose to believe fiction (such as it is possible to refuse to pay the arbitration settlement, or that Bud Selig told the Dodgers not to go to arbitration). HOGWASH! Some people choose to believe that McCourt will not spend the money necessary to win. HOGWASH! What the Dodgers did last off-season was about “positioning.” The Dodgers are trying to get positioned to get some impact players, not the five and dime variety like Wolf and Hudson. The Dodgers won’t spend the money? HOGWASH! The Dodgers are just going to be positioned to spend the money where it can make a difference. The Dodgers are still paying for their (Ned’s) mistakes to Pierre, Schmidt and Jones, but they did get Link and Ely for Pierre (who has been a disappointment for the ChiSox). Both of those player have promise.
The “mistakes” gradually come off the books over the next year or two. On the horizon are Dee Gordon, Jerry Sands, and a bunch of pitchers who throw 95+ MPH.
The Dodgers have learned (the hard way) that you don’t sign the “five-and-dime” free agents – you have to go after the big boys! Watch and see what happens. In a few months, the people who ridiculed Frank McCourt will be wearing brown grocery bags over their heads with “eye slits.”
All I am saying is “Give the Dodgers a Chance!”
Oh…. Fire Joe Torre! His horse finished 16th out of 20 in the derby. Say no more!
Rants & Raves:
- I thought Andrew Lambo had put his character issues behind him. I guess I was wrong. I am officially off the LamboWagon!
- Ramon Ortiz – 3 IP/ 2 Hits/ 5 K’s to get the win. He can stay!
- Carlos Monasterios looked like 24 year-old making his first major league start, but I saw promise. He could just stick in the rotation.
- Charlie Haeger’s butt is glued to the pine.
- Andre Ethier is a beast!