Hooray! The Dodgers are going to sign superstar Matt Kemp to an eight-year, $160 million contract extension!!!
Booo! The Dodgers just gave middle-aged infielder Mark Ellis a two-year deal worth around $9 million!!!
Oh, you silly Dodgers, your decision making is so befuddlingly paradoxical. How can one team be so smart and yet so stupid at the same time. I mean that literally, after all, they made the gloriously brilliant move to keep lock up Matt Kemp on the same day they comically overpaid Mark Ellis. As always with the Dodgers, it is two steps forward and one step back.
To be fair, the Kemp contract extension is probably more like twenty-two steps forward for the embattled Dodger franchise. Sure, they are paying through the nose to keep Kemp in Dodger Blue into his mid-thirties, but it was a move that the team HAD to make. Kemp is probably just days away from winning his first MVP award, giving Dodger fans the first glimmer of brightness they have had in seasons.
The disastrous ownership of the McCourts has done irreparable damage to the Dodger franchise and fans are turning away in droves. Again, I mean that literally. For the first time in the 21st century, the Dodgers failed to reach 3 million in attendance on the season. And that comes on the heels of a 2010 season in which they drew more than 3.7 million fans. Clearly the Dodgers needed to do something to start winning back fans.
The impending ouster of Frank McCourt will go a long way towards that end, but it could be months before his tyrannical reign over the franchise comes to a merciful end. And despite his agreement to sell the team, their is still a looming threat that he will meddle with the team one last time by either working out a personally beneficial TV deal for the club or maintaining ownership over some of the land surrounding Dodger Stadium. So forgive Dodger fans if they aren’t dancing in the streets and setting things on fire (and LA’s history has shown that it doesn’t take much to incite such behavior from its residents).
The Kemp extension? Now that is something worth rioting over (the good kind of rioting). As Kemp’s near-Triple Crown season shows, he has become one of the best players in all of baseball as he enters his prime. In fact, his season was so good that Dodger fans openly worried all season long that the Dodgers were going to have no choice but to watch him leave the team by the end of 2012. Had the McCourt ownership situation not been resolved, there were very real doubts that the Dodgers would have had the money to keep Kemp in Los Angeles. But that worry is gone now, And while giving Kemp Carl Crawford type money probably doesn’t wreak of fiscal responsibility, it is probably the wisest investment the Dodgers have made in ages.
It would have been nice for LA to get some sort of hometown discount, but with Kemp one year away of free agency, they had to pay him market value, if not a tiny bit above, to keep him from testing those waters and sparking further panic in their fan base. Besides, worrying about money might soon be a thing of the past in Chavez Ravine. With the team expecting to be sold for over a billion dollars, the Dodgers are likely months away from having an insanely rich owner who can afford to fund an annual payroll commensurate with a legendary team that operates out of one of the biggest TV markets in the world.
Of course, it isn’t all good news for the Dodgers. While they will hopefully have truckloads of cash to spend in the coming years, their ownership uncertainty is likely to make for tight budget in 2012. Apparently nobody has informed GM Ned Colletti though. Overspending for a superstar like Kemp is one thing, but overspending for washed up veterans is quite another.
Lost in the adulation of Kemp’s nearly official extension is the scrutiny that should be heaped upon Colletti for paying 34-year old Mark Ellis around $9 million over the next two years. This is the same Mark Ellis that posted a .544 OPS with the Athletics before being waived mid-season last year (technically, Ellis was traded to Colorado, but only after being designated for assignment). Sure, Ellis did land on his feet in the thin Colorado air where he scratched out a .708 OPS for the Rockies, but he is still a player in obvious decline who has been hindered by injuries for much of his career.
And this is a signing that comes within days of Colletti signing Juan Rivera to a one-year, $4.5 million contract with a club option for 2013. Rivera was a solid second half addition with his .740 OPS after he was picked up off waiver after he got cut loose by the Toronto Blue Jays. Yes, you read that right, the Dodgers have spent over $13 million this off-season on two players in their mid-thirties with long injury histories that were both so bad in 2011 that they got kicked to the curb by their respective teams.
Even with McCourt on his way out, the Dodgers still keep finding ways to throw away money. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. But at least now the Dodgers finally have some positive PR for the first time since the Bush administration. Baby steps, Dodger fans. Baby steps.