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Angels Busy, Dodgers Dizzy
2003-12-10 08:32
by Jon Weisman

In my morning mailbox:

Subj: The end of the Dodgers as we know them

I am absorbing Arte Moreno's acquisition of two power arms in the offseason thus far. He has negotiated from a position of strength in that he does not need to lose a first round draft pick to acquire A-grade free agents (though he will lose a sandwich and second-round pick). In (Kelvim) Escobar's case, it was a brilliant move; his numbers off Astroturf are phenominal, and he should pitch very well at the Ed. In the case of (Bartolo) Colon, I fear they picked up a name without thinking, as Colon's K/9 dropped dramatically in the last two years. You would think that Sele would have taught them that guys with declining K/9 numbers are not a good investment, especially for contracts longer than three years. But, at least the Halos have been active.

The Dodgers have not.

Sure, there was the huge Duaner Sanchez deal, the resigning of Robin "Where's My Walker?" Ventura, and Masao Kida to a minor league contract, but nothing of import so far. I get the strong impression that this is because the team has substantial pay cuts coming and is loathe to mention them in public. Frank McCourt cannot say it -- he is forbidden to. The Dodgers dare not say it -- it undermines their negotiating position for players like Kevin Brown and Odalis Perez. Perhaps deals fell through because of poor fits or extravagant costs. Certainly, you could argue that we made the Snakes give up far more for Richie Sexson than they should have. And while that's all good, a cloud hangs over Chavez Ravine.

The owners' meetings will certainly be interesting

Of course, you forget Tom Martin ...

Certainly, we're all getting a little stir-crazy. Not just this letter-writer - Steve Dilbeck expresses the same sentiment in this morning's Daily News. It's been a month since the Phillies-Astros trade of Billy Wagner essentially kicked off the Hot Stove League, and the Dodger stewpot has been at simmer for that entire time. Some might call it a crockpot.

But there are three kinds of activity, in this order: good, none and bad. As this letter points out, the Colon signing is a risky one for the Angels. They have committed $51 million over four years to a pitcher, nearly $13 million per year. I applaud Arte Moreno's willingness to invest in his team, but I don't know if that's the best allocation of funds. If injuries or ineffectiveness ruin a year of that deal, the average salary for the remaining three rises to $17 million.

The Dodgers have been this kind of "active" in the past and it has burned them. Admittedly, they went above and beyond with Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort, but just as one adjusts for park factors in evaluating statistics, I think you have to adjust for market factors in evaluating salaries. For all the value Colon is sure to bring to the Angels, his contract is some serious money - maybe a little too serious.

And then, of course, there is the chaos that is the New York Yankees. Read today's Bronx Banter. Yeah, they play in October, but would you really want to be part of this? I'm sorry, I lament the lost hitting, but I still don't miss Gary Sheffield.

There will come a time to judge the 2004 Dodgers, but this isn't it. The Hot Stove League hasn't even reached its All-Star Break - pennants are not won by December 10. As hamstrung they are by the Frank McCourt tremors, the Dodgers have too many resources not to be competitive next year. The most significant player they have lost from their 85-win team is Paul Quantrill. I'm still looking for a National League West team that intimidates me into submission, but I can't find one. Better to continue using this time encouraging rational moves by the Dodgers than encouraging activity for the sake of activity.

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