Did L.A. overpay?
Prospects were the real cost
Of course the Dodgers paid too much to get Adrian Gonzalez. They know it. The Red Sox know it. The rest of baseball knows it. The Dodgers also don't care at all. Money means little to the Dodgers right now. And if the financial whiz kids who run the team -- by the way, did you know that Guggenheim Partners is actually regarded as a conservative shop in the industry? -- don't worry about the $262 million in payroll obligations they've taken on, neither should we. Seriously, stop worrying about the Dodgers' financial situation. Some very smart people who made their money in finance are running the team. They know more about this than we do.
The area where the Dodgers overpaid is in human capital. Prospects. Specifically those two young pitchers the Dodgers included in the deal -- flame-throwing Rubby de la Rosa and sinker-baller Allen Webster.
Neither was regarded among the Dodgers' best pitching prospects, so the team held on to that philosophy at least. But both are premium prospects and in a deal where the Dodgers were essentially taking on the bad contracts of Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to get Gonzalez, no premium prospect should have had to be included. (Webster, if you've forgotten, was the pitcher the Dodgers wouldn't include in the proposed trade for Ryan Dempster at the trade deadline.)
Attempting to justify the inclusion of those pitchers would be more understandable. The Red Sox need to sell this trade to their fans as more than a salary dump. But both? That's harder to swallow right now.
The thing is, both pitchers are still at the prospect stage. Still developing and learning. Webster wasn't even regarded as a top prospect until last season, when he took his game to the next level. De la Rosa is coming off Tommy John surgery.
Prospects have a theoretical value. They are like chickens that may or may not hatch. Sometimes they are more valuable as eggs than they turn out to be later. The Dodgers gave up too much of that theoretical value in this trade. We'll see if it translates as such on paper.
Money isn't an issue under new ownership
The beauty and the problem of baseball economics is the lack of a salary cap, which has come to define how we perceive players' worth within the construct of a team's finances.
For example, if a player who is accounting for 20 percent of a team's payroll is riding the bench and preventing the team from spending on better players, he is labeled as a bust, an albatross preventing the team from getting better.
The idea of a "bad contract" doesn't really exist in baseball, depending on who the owner is and how much he's willing to spend.
There's no question that Carl Crawford, who is in the second year of a seven-year, $142 million deal, Josh Beckett, who has two years left on a four-year, $68 million contract, and Adrian Gonzalez, who has six years left on a seven-year, $154 million contract, are overpaid when compared to their production. While Gonzalez could prove to be worth his deal in L.A., Crawford's contract is one of the worst in baseball, and Beckett's deal is pretty bad as well.
But did the Dodgers spend too much to get them?
The answer, to many, is probably yes. Then again, many people would say the Dodgers were worth only $1 billion when Mark Walter and company bought them for $2 billion. If you think this group cares about money, or at least the common perception of how money should be spent in sports, you haven't been paying attention.
The Dodgers could also ink a record, multibillion TV contract next year. Their payroll will double from around $90 million to around $180 million during that time, putting them just behind the New York Yankees.
This is a new era in Dodgers baseball, where overspending for players is as much a part of the game as sacrifice flies. Sometimes you have to take on a bad contract or two to get the superstar you want.
If the Dodgers can win a World Series with the players they got from Boston, no one will be asking if the team spent too much. The focus will probably shift to who they will overpay the next year to win it again.