Today is the end of an era. The brief, but productive, Manny era, that saw the Dodgers win back to back division titles and NL Divisional series before falling to the Phillies the past two years. And now it’s time to move on. Not like we didn’t know this was coming. Even before Manny stated this year would be his last in LA, we already knew it. But you never like to see it end like this.
Now I’m not going to defend Frank McCourt, but this decision to trade Manny is a good baseball decision. The Dodgers are not going to the postseason this year. They are 10 games behind the Padres with 31 to play. More significantly, they are in fourth place and have three other teams to leapfrog. If they’d beaten up on Colorado this past weekend, then they would have at least a decent shot but losing that series puts them 6 1/2 games back in the wild card, behind four other teams. It’s not likely they could leapfrog both San Francisco AND Colorado, plus the Phillies and Cardinals. So now’s the time to get realistic.
Any baseball fan knows how the business side works. If you’re competitive, you add players. If you’re out of it, you start being open to trading parts of your roster. And now is the time to send Manny Ramirez to a competitor. In these mid to late season trades, you sometimes get prospects and in others, you just get salary relief. Even if you get a prospect, often the salary relief is a huge part of the deal. Saving $4 million, even with $3 of it deferred, is a big deal off the books. I believe if the Dodgers thought they might bring Manny back, they would not just let him go for salary relief. They are not likely to trade Ted Lilly or Scott Podsednik or Hiroki Kuroda, all of whom will be free agents.
But much like last year when they got Jim Thome from the same White Sox, now they are giving Manny up to a contender. He’s banged up, he’s more suited to a DH role and there’s no chance he was going to come back next year.
I have a sense that the Dodger fans’ anger in the posts I’ve read is related more to salary relief that will go to Frank McCourt than any other reason. Unfortunately, he’s the owner of the team, that’s where the savings are. I think we all would love to believe that the $4 million savings will somehow find it’s way back on the roster next year, in the form of Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth or other top hitter. And sadly, we have nothing to bolster that belief, especially with the internal documents that have been released before the trial.
Prior to this season, I found myself defending the sub-$100 million payroll. After all, there’s no reason to have a large payroll for the sake of having a large payroll. We had relatively young players in Kemp, Ethier, Martin, Kershaw, etc. who didn’t require huge salaries yet. At the same time, I didn’t think we should pursue John Lackey because I didn’t think his performance was worth what we’d need to pay for him. I figured that if he was within what McCourt would pay him, Moreno would easily keep him. And Lackey hasn’t helped the Red Sox, Piniero hasn’t helped the Angels. Three of the teams who would be in the playoffs right now are in the bottom half of payroll. So it’s not a guarantee of success.
However, the role of the owner is to put the best possible team on the field. And certainly, seeing who was returning, it appeared we had the parts going into this year, certainly with position players and the bullpen. Instead, the bullpen has imploded and the offense has not produced well. The starting pitching was OK, and again, who could we have gotten? Lackey might have made it more solid, but if he doesn’t improve, the Red Sox may regret the next four years. Piniero hasn’t panned out for the Angels. Even the longshots, Ben Sheets and Rich Harden, have not been successful this year. So I can see the point of staying with a lower payroll this year.
But next year? We have some glaring holes and we don’t have the minor league players to fix them. Catcher is a huge concern. Loney is not giving us power from first base. Furcal’s back is a question mark. Blake is OK, but may be better as a role player than a starter. Do we try to keep Podsednik, the speed and the leadoff hitter, or do we go after Crawford or Werth? And that is where the real Frank McCourt will show up. The Dodgers are a big market team and there is no justification to spend like a mid-market team as he has been doing.
And now, he has nearly $4 million extra to play with. No matter who the owner is and what he’s going to do with the money, from a baseball standpoint, this move makes sense.