Maybe it doesn't seem like a concern in the middle of December with spring training two months off. But across the continent a team is spending money in a way that makes even the Yankees recoil in horror. And if the Nationals hope to build on their breakthrough 2012 season, they eventually will need to reckon with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball's newest big spenders.
A change in ownership in May has the Dodgers finally taking full advantage of the country's second-largest market. Ironically, the approach is spearheaded in part by team president Stan Kasten, the renowned executive who spent four years in Washington until he left after the 2010 season.
In Los Angeles there apparently is no budget. The Dodgers will spend over $220 million next season -- more than the record-setting Yankees ($209 million) in 2008 -- and almost certainly will owe close to $270 million thanks to payouts to players who won't even be on the team. Remember Manny Ramirez? Well, they're still paying him.
This profligate spending is made possible by a pending record local cable television deal. Fox reportedly has offered the Dodgers $6 billion over 25 years, though the team may look at other suitors or start its own network. With just the Fox money, that would be an incredible haul of about $240 million per year. The Nats, by contrast, receive about $29 million per year from MASN, the cable network in which they also own a minority stake. That number is expected to rise significantly this winter -- but they still won't come close to the Dodgers. No one will.
Why does that matter? Well, Los Angeles has used that expected cash flow to retool its roster by adding expensive veterans Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford via trades late last season, and then it signed Zack Greinke, the top free agent pitcher, to a six-year, $147 million deal over the weekend and added highly regarded Korean left-hander Hyun-jin Ryu for almost $62 million. The end result? Los Angeles is listed as a co-favorite with Washington to win the World Series in 2013 by gambling website Bovada.com.
- Brian McNally