You can just imagine the panic in Chavez Ravine, can't you? Last spring, a new ownership group led by Magic Johnson took over and promised the world.
Well, not the world. But a lot. The new regime would make the parking lots safe (if not efficient). The new regime would repair all the public-relations damage done by the previous owners (whose names shall not be spoken). And the new regime, freed of the previous regime's debt and buoyed by the untold riches promised by the club's next television contract, would spend, baby.
They couldn't spend in the spring, though. They could spend in the summer. Not a lot. But they could spend some, and did. They traded for Hanley Ramirez, whose contract still contained sizable sums. And they traded for Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton, both of whom still had a few million left in this, the last season of their existing deals.
But big spending, it seemed, would have to wait. All those millions just waiting to be spent, but nobody to spend them on. Not until this winter, during free-agent season. What a helpless feeling that must be, to have so many millions and nothing to spend them on, while you're falling behind in a divisional death match with your biggest rivals. Oh, how that must smart!
Except then along came the Boston Red Sox, looking to blow everything up and start over. The Los Angeles Dodgers' single biggest weakness is first base. Thanks almost entirely to James Loney, Dodger first basemen rank 15th in the National League in OPS. Thanks largely to Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox first basemen rank second in the American League in OPS. In the short term, it would be difficult to make a better swap than James Loney for Adrian Gonzalez.
The Dodgers have a number of good, relatively cheap pitchers. What they've been missing is good hitters, cheap or not. This winter's free-agent crop is weak. Management presumably looked at that crop and figured they might as well get a hitter now, when the getting is good.
But of course they're getting more than just Adrian Gonzalez, who's under contract through 2018, and will earn more than $130 million between now and then. They're also getting Josh Beckett, who's signed through 2014. Beckett's just 5-11 this season, with a 5.23 ERA and a greatly diminished strikeout rate. If he can find those missing strikeouts, he'll be worth the $31.5 million he's slated to earn over the next two seasons. They're also getting Carl Crawford, who's signed through 2017. But the Dodgers have a hole in left field next season -- just as they had a hole this season, before acquiring Shane Victorino, who's really a center fielder -- and if Crawford can ever get healthy again, that hole in left field will be amply filled. For two or three years, anyway.
It's far too early to say the Dodgers are going to beat everybody, just because they're outspending everybody. We've heard that about teams before, and it doesn't always work out that way. But it's probably not too early to say they will outspend everyone, or at least everyone east of the Appalachians. That's in the long term. In the short term, the National League West just got even more interesting than it already was. Which was considerably.