Is there a limit? Dodgers still in on Masahiro Tanaka, too

Koji Watanabe

The Dodgers ownership group since taking over in May 2012 has added nearly $1 billion in new salary commitments.

So the Dodgers locked up their crown jewel, agreeing to terms with ace Clayton Kershaw on a seven-year contract extension worth a record $215 million. But the Dodgers may not be done acquiring starting pitching, with interest in either Masahiro Tanaka or Bronson Arroyo per Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of Fox Sports.

Wait, what?

The Dodgers already have $82.75 million, in 2014 payouts, due to five starters: Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren and Josh Beckett. They have another $12 million committed to Chad Billingsley, due back in June after Tommy John surgery.

Beckett is coming off surgery as well, as he had a rib removed to relieve pressure on his nerves caused by Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, but is expected to be ready by the start of spring training.

Then again, the Dodgers entered the regular season in 2013 with eight starters on guaranteed major league contracts and still needed a ninth starting pitcher by April 27, just their 23rd game of the year. Depth is king for general manager Ned Colletti, and Arroyo would provide just that.

Arroyo, who turns 37 in February, is the definition of a league average innings muncher. He went 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA (a 101 ERA+) in 32 starts for the Reds in 2013, with 124 strikeouts and 34 walks in 202 innings. He has been durable, with at least 200 innings in eight of the last nine seasons, and in his last three years has had 32 starts and between 199 and 202 innings each season.

But the interest in Arroyo is only if the Dodgers don't get Tanaka, who has until 2 p.m. PT on January 24 to reach an agreement with a major league team.

Rosenthal and Morosi say the Dodgers' signing of Tanaka would be an ownership call, while Jon Heyman of CBS Sports heard that a Kershaw contract would not preclude the Dodgers from also pursuing Tanaka, who will likely sign a contract in excess of $100 million in addition to the $20 million posting fee due the Rakuten Eagles of the NPB.

Dodgers CEO and president Stan Kasten told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, "I don't think any one contract impacts another."

At this point, why would anyone bet against the Dodgers in the Tanaka sweepstakes?

Ever since the Guggenheim Partners took over as owners in May 2012, the club has spent and spent and spent and spent, with no end in sight.

From the $260 million in salary commitments added in the Punto Trade, to Kershaw's deal, to the $147 million spent on Greinke last winter, to the nearly $62 million spent on Ryu, including posting fee, the ownership group has taken on nearly $1 billion in new salary commitments since buying the team.

That's billion, with a b.

In under two years.

It's a weird place to be. The Dodgers were by no means paupers even under Frank McCourt. The team may have been in bankruptcy, but payrolls have been in the $100 million range for over a decade. Now, that's just what the Dodgers pay their starting pitchers.

The concept of an actual budgetary limit seems elusive, if not completely foreign.

The payroll once catcher A.J. Ellis and closer Kenley Jansen is signed will be nearing the $250 million range. What's another $15 or $20 million on the pile?

So far, from beefing up the scouting department both domestically and internationally, to embracing franchise legends like Sandy Koufax and welcoming their return, to nine-figure upgrades to Dodger Stadium, the answer from the Dodgers ownership group to "Can we add this?" has been a resounding, "Yes."

At this point, it would surprise me if the Dodgers didn't get Tanaka.

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