Frank McCourt has a strange way of defining "Business as Usual"

Eric seemed a bit ticked off today as Frank McCourt proved once again that economics is more important then fielding the best team now and in the future.  When Ned Colletti was hired among the news of the divorce he said he was told that the Dodgers would conduct "Business as Usual". And he's right, the Dodgers are conducting business as usual for them.  Ever since the summer of 2008 Frank has shown that he's more concerned with saving money and playing in the now then he is in the long term future of his Dodgers. Move after move has saved him money in the short term while allowing him to compete in the short term, but this strategy can only work so long, and just like leveraging the team time and time again at some point you have to pay the piper.

Many seemed shocked by todays news that the Dodgers would not offer Wolf/Hudson arbitration. I'm not sure why, the Dodgers have clearly had a trend for the last 18 months of saving money at every opportunity and being risk averse when it comes to arbitration.

Cost cutting moves since the summer of 2008.

2008

1. Selling/Trading Carlos Santana/Jon Meloan to the Indians for a free and clear Casey Blake. The ramifications were the loss of the best player in the California League who played a premium position in exchange for a good 3rd baseman for the current team at zero cost saving the team around $2,000,000.  The only thing wrong with the deal was that to get the Indians to play Casey's salary the price seemed much much to high when you consider who the Indians got from the Brewers when they traded CC and didn't pay any salary.

2. Trading/Selling 2007 2nd round pick Michael Watt for Greg Maddux. Nothing wrong with getting Maddux but since we didn't want to pay any salary the cost of the prospect was kind of high for a 40 something year old pitcher who could barely go 5 quality innings.

3. Trading/Selling Andy LaRoche/Byron Morris for Manny Ramirez. Nothing wrong with acquiring Manny but again the Dodgers managed to acquire a player for the post season push at no financial cost to them by trading prospects.

In 2008 the Dodgers managed to trade Carlos Santana/Jon Meloan/Michael Watt/Andy LaRoche/Byron Morris and acquire Manny/Blake/Maddux while not taking on any salary. Surely a short term bonus to the team but quite a price to pay for the future instead of just spending some money.

2009

1. Deferring Andruw Jone's contract instead of simply eating it and not having to worry about the cost in the future. By deferring his contract it allowed them to sign Wolf/Hudson/Manny.

2. Deferring Manny's two year deal so that the pain would endure for many years to come. 

3. Trading Tony Abreu for Jon Garland. The cash strapped Diamondbacks threw in some money ($3,661,102) to cover Garlands buy out and for that price they got someone who will probably be there starting 2nd baseman in 2010. The Diamondbacks now have a cheap 2nd baseman for the next several years while Dodgers have no Garland and no 2nd baseman.

4. Shockingly the Sherrill trade was not about money, but the long term ramifications might be felt for years to come as Josh Bell and Steve Johnson were ripped from the system.

5. With the possibility of gaining four high draft picks the Dodgers opt to not offer arbitration to Randy Wolf or Orlando Hudson because of the fear of having to pay them even though the odds of them accepting arbitration were not very high. And even if they did accept, one year deals for productive players in their 30's is usually a good plan of attack. For once they may have screwed themselves not only in the short term but in the long term. In the long term  Eric noted the value of those draft picks is in the millions with these tweets from Jay Jaffe:

4 years ago Nate Silver estimated that team losing type A f-a is compensated with $12 million in draft picks.
So, for avoiding 4 bonuses ($1-2 mil per, max), Dodgers lose out on $24 mil of picks by not offering Hudson & Wolf arb. #mccourtsmustgo

In the short term we certainly could have used either Wolf or Hudson in 2010 on one year deals.

Also in 2008/2009 the  Memories of Kevin Malone chronicles how the Dodgers over the last two years have spent the least amount of money on draft bonuses

The Dodgers have paid $8.5 million in signing bonuses for draft picks over the last two years -- the lowest figure among all major league teams, according to Baseball America.

The Dodgers, so proud of their heritage in Asia and Latin America, today are a non-factor in bidding for top amateur players abroad. In 2008, according to Baseball America, major league clubs combined to sign 115 such players for bonuses of more than $100,000. The Dodgers did not sign one.

Let us not forget how they handled the following draft picks as Eric reported in the comments.

2006: Dodgers draft Alex White in 14th round, big time talented P out of HS, don’t sign him (he went #15 to Indians in 2009)
2007: Dodgers draft Kyle Blair in 5th round, fail to sign him for $1.35m…he goes to USD and will be 1st rounder in2010.

And you wonder why I was shocked that Garret Gould was signed. I wonder what Logan White had to do to make that happen?

Face it, this ownership has cash flow problems and has done everything it can possibly do to mitigate current financial obligations by either deferring the problems to the future or selling assets (prospects) to help them compete in the short term.  A $100 Million dollar payroll is no small amount but when your competition in the NLCS is spending $140 Million it might seem you are playing with an arm tied behind your back. However the Padres won't feel sorry for the Dodgers since the Dodgers outspend the Padres by the same margin. 

Amazingly with all of this the team still has a core good enough to get back to the postseason but now I'm wondering who will be next to finance the short term goal as they throw the long term vision away?

If Frank came out and said, you know I've got some financial problems and we need to cut back until we get this straightened out, I'd feel like writing a Hobo Frank column saying we should support this team. I could live with the current team as we throw out Haeger/McDonald/Elbert/Lindblom into the rotation along with a host of cheap NRI's. I could live with DeWitt/Belliard manning 2nd base until DeJesus is ready. I can live with having to go cheap with the farm in combination with what we currently have. What I can't live with is bullshit PR spin about Business as Usual and the selling of the future because they don't have the cash for the present.  This may be business as usual for Frank McCourt but it is not how Dodgers fans expect the team to be run. At least I hope not.

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