If anybody has any idea what the Dodgers are up to this offseason, you're one up on me. Oh, they've tried to upgrade their club. They thought they had signed Hasashi Iwakuma to a three year contract, then backed out when his medicals came back and they didn't like what they saw. They had a deal worked out to acquire Aroldis Chapman, but that imploded when news of the domestic violence accusations against Chapman came to light. Then they dealt serviceable prospects away to the Reds (including an MLB-ready second baseman, a position where they currently have a need) for a bunch of the White Sox's spare parts.
Each of these moves is defensible on its face, I suppose (ok, maybe not the last one). But the end result is that the Dodgers are now left with a depleted rotation where otherworldly ace Clayton Kershaw is backed by Brett Anderson and Alex Wood, and not much else until Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-jin Ryu work themselves back into playing shape. It also leaves their bullpen, which was so exposed in the postseason, without an upgrade to lead into Kenley Jansen. And they're fixing to move forward with some second base combination led by Chase Utley and Micah Johnson.
Look, this is just not the Dodgers team that we've grown used to seeing. That Dodgers team, seemingly tasked with outspending everyone for both major and minor league talent, was hyper aggressive about filling holes through trades and free agent signings. Those Dodgers wouldn't have let Zack Greinke slip away. They would have moved on from Chapman to bring in Darren O'Day. If they weren't willing to move forward with Jose Peraza, they would have landed Ben Zobrist, traded for Brandon Phillips, or at least turned back to Howie Kendrick.
These Dodgers are being left with the dregs of the free agent and trade markets because of their hesitancy. They're stuck in neutral, while division rivals San Francisco and Arizona have already peeled out and are halfway around the track.
The question I keep coming back to is "why?" The Dodgers have what is supposed to be the most lucrative local television contract in baseball. They plan in the majorest major market in the land. They have seemingly infinite star power. How have they allowed themselves to become so passive? A couple days ago, Mike Ozanian wrote about how he was struggling in putting together his estimation of how much the Dodgers are worth for Forbes's annual franchise valuation column. He said,
"Guggenheim Baseball Management paid $2 billion for the team and Dodger Stadium, and $2.3 billion when you include the nearby real estate, three years ago. Since then, even with their $7 billion television deal with Time Warner Cable the Dodgers have posted over $85 million in operating (in the sense of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) losses by my count and much bigger pretax losses (not important from a cash flow standpoint, but very important when it comes to lending covenants). The Dodgers will almost certainly have baseball's biggest payroll and lose money again this year."
He concluded that "Guggenheim Baseball, which used hundreds of millions of dollars of insurance company money controlled by Guggenheim Partners to buy the Dodgers, is still using that money to run the team."
If that's true, it occurs to me that no one's pockets are actually bottomless. No one can keep spending like a drunk sailor on leave (or like me at the Vegas casino at which I've been staying all week) forever. Eventually you reach a point where all that's left in those pockets is lint. And I wonder if the Dodgers are approaching that point. I wonder if they simply don't have access to the reserves they had in the past, and if there's a conscious effort being made by Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers ownership to bring spending back under control. To at least reduce their operating losses, if not find a way to balance the books. I wonder if that's part of an effort to keep the team operational or whether it's actually to make it more attractive to potential purchasers (as Ozanian pointed out, the Dodgers did try to sell a significant portion of the team last summer, but the deal fell through). I don't have any information, but the drastic change in front office strategy raises a ton of questions about why the Dodgers aren't spending anymore, and what it means for the rest of the league.