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This Is Next Year

In his column today, Bill Plaschke says that now that the Dodgers have hired Joe Torre, they need to win now. Putting aside the absurdity of changing your teams philosophy due to the second least important guy on the Dodgers payroll (behind only whoever backs up Russell Martin), the difference of opinion about what winning now means is interesting.

Since Paul DePodesta's great purge of 2005, the Dodgers have been a team that has tried to stay competitive by signing veterans to fill the massive voids that the Kevin Malone era left in the Dodgers farm system, while waiting for Logan White's draft picks to come up and take the reigns for the team. Aside from one misstep in Juan Pierre, Ned Colletti has followed a similar route, signing only Juan Pierre to a contract longer than three years. Since 2004 or 2005 the Dodgers mantra has been wait till next year when the kids come up, then we'll contend.

2008 is finally going to be next year. If the Dodgers simply did nothing right now, they would start the year with Russell Martin behind the plate, James Loney at first, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp at the corners, Chad Billingsley as the number two or three starter, and Jonathan Broxton as arguably the most dominant setup man in baseball. Behind them are Andy LaRoche, Jonathan Meloan, Clayton Kershaw, Tony Abreu, and James McDonald, all of whom could make a huge impact this year. The Dodgers patience is just now paying off, and because of it, they could make literally no acquisitions for the next four years, and still be a very good team.

Why then would you flush a plan that has been six years in the making down the drain in order to appease a newly hired manager? If you attempt to "win now" like Plaschke wants, it means either trading these pieces away for veteran players, or signing other veterans to replace our current team. And you know, if you only look in the extreme short term, this might not be a terrible idea. When you factor in Mike Lowell's defensive ability, he'll probably be a better player in 2008? But what about 2009 when Andy LaRoche is improving and Lowell is fading? What about not being able to play Johan Santana because you have 60 million dollars committed over the next four years to Lowell? Is a slight advantage in 2008 worth completely obliterating the future, especially when you consider how much of a crapshoot the playoffs are?

The Dodgers made their plan to focus on youth years ago, and because of that the best way for the Dodgers to "win now" is to keep the exact same team they have. The only free agent out on the market that would improve the team on no uncertain terms is Alex Rodriguez. After that, the personnel that the Dodgers have today is strong enough that the proven veterans of the world won't help all that much in the near term, and would prove to be very detrimental in the long run. Winning now means putting the best nine players out on the field every day, and Matt Kemp, James Loney, and others are part of those nine. Torri Hunter and Mike Lowell aren't. Hopefully, our new manager understands that.