The Dodgers added more than $400 million in player contracts this season, but Chairman Mark Walter said the team still has the financial wherewithal to make significant acquisitions over the winter, “If it’s there and if it’s right for us.”
Walter said, however, that the Dodgers wouldn’t be careless with their money.
“If it’s not worth it, it doesn’t matter if you have more money,” he said.
Walter hinted the team might be reluctant to offer a long-term contract to a pitcher, saying, “Pitchers break.” Of the pitchers who will be free agents this winter, only one is expected to command a nine-figure deal: the Angels’ Zack Greinke.
While the luxury tax will figure into the Dodgers’ thinking at some point, that time hasn’t come yet, according to Walter. The Dodgers’ payroll is projected to exceed $200 million next season; any amount they spend over $178 million would be taxed at 17.5%.
Walter acknowledged he was frustrated when his high-priced lineup didn’t immediately produce this summer.
“But you just have to let it happen,” he said. “You think you’re going to keep this team down forever? We did not make this move for this year. Of course, we hoped it would help this year. But that’s not why we did it. You noticed the guys we picked up, we think they’re in the middle of a long number of years for us.”
“We have a stake in the ground. I didn’t feel we had a real stake in the ground.”
Walter reiterated points made earlier by team President Stan Kasten and General Manager Ned Colletti, among them that the Dodgers made trades for Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez when they did because players of their caliber wouldn’t be available in free agency.
“I think Adrian Gonzalez is one of the best first basemen in baseball and I don’t think there’s a better first baseman free agent coming any time soon,” Walter said.
But are the fans buying into what the Dodgers are doing?
Told Dodger Stadium was half-empty for a must-win against the rival San Francisco Giants on Monday night, Walter nodded.
“I think it’s our job to prove it to them, right?” Walter said. “I don’t think you can blame fans for anything, I really don’t. We’re all consumers in other things, right? Pick something you don’t like very much. I blame them, right? I don’t blame me for not liking it. I think fans are giving us a positive response. The fact they’re not all just here to jump up and say we’re the best, why would they be doing that? We haven’t earned that.”
Another start for Kershaw
Even before the Dodgers knew whether their regular-season finale Wednesday would mean anything, they committed to Clayton Kershaw as their starting pitcher.
“Clayton loves to pitch,” Manager Don Mattingly said.
Kershaw has pitched twice since missing a start because of a right hip injury. In his last start, Kershaw pitched eight shutout innings to beat the Colorado Rockies.
“No reason not to let him pitch,” Mattingly said, noting that Kershaw has been following his regular between-starts routine.
The start could affect postseason balloting for the Cy Young Award. Kershaw is widely considered one of the top four candidates for the prize, the others being the New York Mets’ R.A. Dickey, the Washington Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez and the Cincinnati Reds’ Johnny Cueto.