Blockbuster trade reveals the price of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ soul

The price tag for the Los Angeles Dodgers? $2.15 billion.

The price tag for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ soul? $260 million.

The new owners of the Dodgers showed last week that they committed to winning and committed to winning now, by acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto for James Loney and a handful of prospects.

I went looking for some insight on this deal, and the reaction was almost uniformly this: The deal makes the Dodgers better.

We’ll not argue that point. Adding Adrian Gonzalez at first base instead of the platoon of James Loney/Juan Rivera make the Dodgers better … RIGHT NOW.

But will it make the Dodgers better than the Giants? Will it be enough to erase the three-game deficit the Dodgers had in the NL West when they made this deal? Will it be enough to overcome a tougher schedule than the Giants?

The Dodgers have 16 of their remaining 33 games against teams that currently have a winning records — the Giants, Reds, Cardinals and Nationals.

The Giants have six of their remaining 34 games against teams with a winning record — the Dodgers.

But the real question is how long will it make the Dodgers better and what will be the impact on the franchise in years to come?

Consider this. Before the deal was made, the Dodgers were locked into more than $123 million in guaranteed contracts for the 2013 season.

After this deal, that number skyrocketed to $181.3 million. And that only covers 17 players. They still need to pay another eight players to fill out a 25-man roster, meaning their payroll likely will approach $200 million in 2013.

By comparison, the Yankees — THE YANKEES — are only committed to $117 million in guaranteed contracts for 2013. projects the Yankees payroll at $187.8 in 2013.

The Dodgers’ projected 2013 payroll? $197.7 million.

That means that next season, for the first time since God knows when, it’s likely the team with the largest payroll in baseball won’t wear pinstripes and live in the Bronx.

Nobody told us that one of the Dodgers’ new silent partners was the ghost of George Steinbrenner.

But it doesn’t stop there. The Dodgers are now locked into $128.7 million in guaranteed contracts in 2014, paying only seven players. And in 2014, Clayton Kershaw will be eligible for his final year in arbitration, and likely will command a salary of more than $20 million.

The folks in Dodgertown are giddy about this deal. But if this were such a great deal, why is it that EVERY American League team, plus a majority of NL teams passed on these contracts?

That’s how the waiver claim process works. Every American League team, plus any NL team with a record worse than the Dodgers had to say “No thank you. We don’t want these contracts, even if it means we have to give up nothing in return.”

It’s clear that in order get Gonzalez, the Dodgers had to pick up the contracts of Beckett (2 years, $31.5 million after 2012), Crawford (5 years, $102.5 million) and Punto (1 year, $1.5 million).

In Beckett, they get a pitcher with a career ERA that sits at almost 4.00 and was at 5.23 this season.

In Crawford, they get a player whose made more news with his injuries than his bat the past two years in Boston.

If there’s an added positive impact of the deal on the Giants, it’s this: with the Dodgers outfield set with Kemp, Ethier and Crawford, it will take the Dodgers out of the market for an outfielder this offseason.

That’s good news for the Giants, who likely will be looking for a couple of outfielders, as they look to replace Melky Cabrera and possibly re-sign Angel Pagan.


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