I have read and re-read Bill Shaikin's interview with Dodger President Dennis Mannion in the LA Times many times, trying to wrap my head around it. Every time I see the words, I get angry. Angry that the Dodgers have a man in Mannion running the baseball operations who doesn't seem to have a clue how teams are built.
And is it worth a premium draft pick? That's also showing bizarre behavior, in my opinion, in terms of teams bidding against themselves for draft picks. That's been going on for a while on the amateur side of the business. But it's happening now on the international side, with guys you don't know anything about.
It's strange to me to see teams operate in a way where they bid against themselves for unknown talent, and at the same time, you have this plethora of guys in the system that maybe are not developing appropriately, i.e. a (Ronald) Belisario. That's interesting stuff to me. I think it's really fascinating. It's probably the upside of having very tough economic times.
Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Jonathan Broxton, Chad Bilingsley, James Loney, Russell Martin, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Ramon Troncoso, just to name a few, were all acquired by the Dodgers as amateurs. Young talent is the driving force behind a Dodger team that has reached two straight National League Championship Series. But Mannion -- who runs the baseball operations for the team, by the way -- doesn't see their value.
Mannion uses a diversion tactic here. Draft picks are a crap shoot, he says, but hey, look over here. Remember when we signed Ronald Belisario out of nowhere? Look, something shiny. Look over here instead!
My advice to Mannion, in order to deal with the problem of "guys you don't know anything about," is this: That's what scouts are for. You have Logan White. Use him.
Shaikin then asked about the concern over the cost of extra draft picks (Shaikin's question is in bold):
Since Wolf probably would have signed a long-term contract somewhere else even if the Dodgers had offered him arbitration, how worried were you about the millions it might cost to sign the draft picks you would have gotten in return?
You're dealing with a very fluid situation. Those millions that are potentially in play, they can manifest themselves where the opportunity is. If the opportunity is in buying more portable concession stands, then that's what you do. If the opportunity is buying some international talent that you have a very good handle on, that's what you do. In this particular world, you're making those assessments on a daily basis.
I like being able to have more opportunities to buy a hefeweizen and a Dodger Dog as much as the next guy, but I'd rather have a few more draft picks. Mannion uses another diversion tactic here: he was asked about draft picks, and answered about a choice between stadium upgrades and amateur international talent. Mannion's "portable concession stands" rings as hollow as Jamie McCourt's "50 Little League fields" comments last season.
I don't know how many times we've talked about this since the season ended, but the Dodgers will be good in 2010. There is too much talent still around to think otherwise. But investing in player development isn't a one-time event. I just hope the Dodgers figure it out before the cupboard runs dry.