PHILADELPHIA, PA: Cole Hamels and Carlos Ruiz of the Philadelphia Phillies greet teammate Michael Stutes before a game against the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
It took a big deal to a little-known Cuban to make us realize that Cole Hamels has only one possible destination.
I don't want to troll Phillies fans with the headline. Really, I don't. I like a lot of the Phillies fans on the Internet! The folks over at The Good Phight are great, and I love Crashburn Alley. The Phillies blogosphere is just swell, for the most part. I'm not even going to do that thing where I write "Look at this picture of Mike Schmidt arm wrestling Pat Burrell at a sorority house!" and link to a picture of Cody Ross instead. Not going to troll today.
The headline is just a logical conclusion to a story that will build momentum over the next few months. The Dodgers have new owners, as you've heard or read dozens of times by now. And with those mentions, there's usually something about them wanting to spend money to wave the stink of Frank McCourt away from Dodger fans. Magic Johnson, one of the principal owners, is giddy about the idea:
It's not just the Yankees. The Angels invested a lot of money into Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. You see what the Tigers just did with Prince Fielder. Teams are investing. That's what you do when you put a winning team on the field. We're not going to be any different from those teams.
But, hey, talk is cheap. Until it's really, really expensive. And that talk turned expensive when the Dodgers signed Cuban prospect Yasiel Puig to a major-league contract worth $42 million. The reaction can be summed up best by a simple headline to the Baseball America story on the signing:
Dodgers Sign Yasiel Puig To Puzzling Deal
And some golden quotes:
One executive called the deal "crazy." Several others were floored by the reported contract terms.
"I don't know," said one international director, echoing several of his colleagues. "I don't know what's going on in Dodger land. They must have seen something."
"Leslie Anderson's numbers were good in Cuba—where's he at?" said one Latin American director. "It means nothing. You don't want their numbers to be bad, but just because they're good doesn't mean anything."
And so on. You might think this is a way to get some jabs in at the Dodgers. It is not. This is a way to express that the Dodgers clearly have ****-you money. It's a special kind of money. Winning the lottery sets you up for life. But winning one of those multi-state, $600 million Powerballs gives you ****-you money, where you can buy an island and ship it to the moon. It's like that for the Dodgers, but in baseball terms. They didn't have to choose between Puig and being active on the free-agent market this winter. And now it's clear that they're basically drunk and on Amazon at three in the morning.
So I'm convinced. They're going to spend. They just spent something like Mark Buehrle money on an unproven player that makes scouts shrug and use words like "aight." The Dodgers will get a premium free agent this offseason. They'll come over the top of whatever offer stands in their way. They're going to identify a player and go nuts this year.
But with whom? Josh Hamilton? There's no law against paying a combined $400 million to an outfield, so it's possible. But you'd think the Dodgers would be a little wary of committing that much to the outfield for the next five years, even if they have all sorts of crazy money. And considering that both of the current long-term outfielders are struggling with injuries, adding a third outfielder with injury concerns might be a bit much. Still possible. Not likely.
Zack Greinke still might re-sign with the Brewers, but even if he doesn't, he doesn't seem like a Los Angeles type. That's not just idle speculation: His contract has a no-trade clause that was specifically rigged against large-market teams. He doesn't want scrutiny. He doesn't want ballyhoo.
I've gone through the list before, and since then, Mike Napoli has looked okay, and Shane Victorino hasn't looked that great this year. A hot second-half could change that, but if a team is looking to make a public-relations statement, those players don't seem like the way to go.
This is Cole Hamels:
This is also Cole Hamels:
His nickname is Hollywood. He's from Southern California. Specifically, San Diego, which makes the Dodgers the second-closest major-league team to where he grew up (after the Angels). And he's a premium, premium free agent. He makes a statement. He gets the fans excited. He would totally eat at Spago just to be seen. He is the perfect storm for the Dodgers. The Puig deal confirms this.
Look, I didn't rub it in your face when Yoenis Cespedes signed with the Marlins, as I totally predicted. And I didn't toot my own horn when the Dodgers traded for Kevin Youkilis, which no one else saw coming. So I won't get all snotty when this goes down. Because there's exactly one way this doesn't come true: The Phillies re-sign him. It could happen. See, I told you I didn't want to troll Phillies fans. I'd guess the odds are something like 50/50 that he re-signs. It isn't a long shot.
But if that doesn't happen, the Dodgers will get goofy. They will outbid teams that agent John Boggs makes up on the spot.
I don't care if the Anchorage Owls have a $175-million offer in. We'll double it. Don't screw us on this, Boggs.
And it took a Yasiel Puig deal to make that clear. Hamels will be a Dodger. Unless he's still a Phillie. But I'm betting Dodger.