Does losing Masahiro Tanaka mean Dodgers reached financial limit?

Japan's Masahiro Tanaka pitches against the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic last March in Tokyo.

Japan’s Masahiro Tanaka pitches against the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic last March in Tokyo.

(Toru Takahashi / Associated Press)

And then a bullet did not bounce off the chest. The baseball world did not fall to its feet. Shock and awe and resignation were notably absent.

The Dodgers lost Wednesday, lost in a realm they had fairly dominated since new ownership took up residence almost two years ago.

The Dodgers were outbid for a player they wanted. Somebody else won the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes. Those wealthy, money-be-dammed Dodgers of the East -- the New York Yankees -- emerged with the right-handed Japanese star.

It is the first time new Dodgers ownership drew an economic line it would not cross. Unless you count Mark Ellis. The first hint of coming financial limitations. Ownership warned this day was coming, and here it is, feeling slightly early upon arrival.


Tanaka received a seven-year, $155-million contract to sign with the Yankees, which was apparently both more years and dollars than the Dodgers deemed prudent.

“We went as far as we thought we could go,” Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said.

Maybe the Yankees overpaid for Tanaka, though it was not exactly an even bidding war. Not from a motivational sense. The Yankees were bidding to put a second ace into an otherwise shaky rotation; the Dodgers were bidding to add a third ace to Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke and an already excellent rotation.

The greater need led to the deeper pocket book, even if it gives pause to a fan base that quickly became comfortable with a Dodgers ownership willing to spend whatever it took. Still, from the beginning team President Stan Kasten said the Dodgers would spend big early to become immediately competitive before backing off after building up its system.

The quality of the farm system has been upgraded, if still a long ways from the desired goal. But there was always going to be some kind of interim period and now it’s arrived, ready or not. The Dodgers were two victories from the World Series last season. It’s not like they’re starting from the bottom.

Yet in terms of adding significant new players, it’s been a fairly quiet off-season for the Dodgers. And here was Tanaka, who would not cost players in return nor a draft pick, only money. Which seemed a soft one over the middle for a team that had quickly built the biggest payroll in baseball.

Until they whiffed, or at least pulled back and let someone else take the big hack. Money is no object, suddenly no longer their modus operandi. You wondered if they had limits? Now you know. For this particular situation, the Dodgers saw a limit.

Don’t be shocked, don’t fear this means a return to the days of Frank McCourt financial restraints, that the honeymoon has ended. The new ownership has done everything it said it would, including this.