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The Dodgers Were Right to Pass on Cueto

David Goldman/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

“Don’t mistake activity with achievement.” –John Wooden, former UCLA Basketball Coach

In sports, much like life, doing is not always achieving. Sometimes holding back, restraining oneself, and planning for the future is the key to success. What many in the sports field, whether fan or professional, are forgetting is what history has proven in hindsight. It is a lack of trust in building something great.  It is the practice of letting go and disregarding the plan to action too soon.

In that regard, Larry King needs some perspective. However, King is not unlike any other sports fan. He is letting his passion cloud his judgment because he has grown close to a team and its players. He is not thinking with his brain, but his heart.


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What we need to be focused on is why the Front Office of the Los Angeles Dodgers is forgoing signing various free agents. The following quote comes to mind: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results,” which is often attributed to Albert Einstein.

The Dodgers, for years, have signed big name players to huge contracts and for what? How many championships have the Dodgers won since 1988? Zero. Nada. None. Therefore, the definition of insanity would be continue to spend massive amounts of money on free agents and trade away controllable players before or in their arbitration years to land soon to be free agents and expect a different result, like winning a championship. Not going to happen. Accept it.

Exhibit A: Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants, and St. Louis Cardinals. Which raises a great question, why are Cardinals fans not going crazy over a “lack” of free agent signings? Because they trust in the front office to perform. Because they get it.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Money does not win championships. Winning in December at the Winter Meetings does not equal Winning the Fall Classic.

We need to give Andrew Friedman and his team a chance to perform. Remember, this is only the beginning of his second year on the job.

With the above being said, here are SEVEN things the Los Angeles Dodgers did by passing on Johnny Cueto:

1. The Dodgers are waiting for the rest of their Division and Major League Baseball to catch up to their spending limits. The Dodgers had a $300 million dollar payroll in 2015 and paid $40 million dollars in luxury tax, which the Diamondbacks and Giants likely used a portion of to sign Zach Greinke and Johnny Cueto. The disparity between the Dodgers and the second ranked team is nearly $100 million dollars.

That hurts the Dodgers.  Unless you like to practice insanity, if something hurts without a quantifiable return, like burning your hand on the stove, you want to try to avoid doing that again.

Here are two additional articles regarding payroll: here and here. Pay careful attention to what teams made the playoffs, who made it to the World Series, and who won the World Series. Enjoy.

2. The Dodgers’ four rivals in the National League West are now strapped for cash and talent with simultaneous high performance standards from their fans. Hmm. Never a good combination. The Dodgers, by outspending and out-trading their rivals in 2015 have forced their competitors to make counter-reactions for 2016, hopefully to their competitor’s detriment.

Never underestimate a front office driven by experience, numbers, and market value backed by Wall Street and Ivy League knowledge. The Dodgers now have the young, controllable talent, roster flexibility, and the cash and talent to execute a trade down the road (like at the All-Star break, which has been a problem for lack of resources the past few seasons). What happens when we combine the above with the Dodgers front office talent?  Well, this is going to be a fun ride.

3. The Dodgers took the Giants and the Diamondbacks out of the Kenta Maeda bidding. When the Diamondbacks and Giants “outspent” the Dodgers in both years and total dollars to sign Cueto and Greinke, both teams were forced, in essence, to pass on Maeda. The Diamondbacks and Giants, with the offensive changes needed to their line-up cards, cannot afford Maeda with their new and existing contracts on the books.

And what is not to like about Maeda?  Maeda is two years young than Cueto, four years younger than Greinke, and with more consistent pitching performance and a lower ERA than both by a large margin (albeit while pitching in the Japanese Baseball League/Nippon Professional Baseball). Even with the $20 million dollar posting fee, Maeda’s price tag in years and dollars is likely to be exponentially less than Greinke, David Price, or Cueto.

What’s more, Los Angeles is a great market for a Japanese pitcher in terms of assimilation and, of course, marketing. Think Yasiel Puig, but much larger in terms of popularity based on the Japanese community in Los Angeles.

The above being said, we would not be surprised if the Dodgers passed on Maeda because more recently Japanese and Korean pitchers have come with arm and shoulder troubles.  Think Hyun-Jin Ryu (Dodgers), Masahiro Tanaka (New York Yankees), Yu Darvish (Texas Rangers), and Daisuke Matsuzaka (Boston Red Sox).

Still, though, the possibility at doing so is our focus.  The flexibility is crucial here and in years moving forward.

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Written by Jeremy Evans

Jeremy M. Evans is the Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clientele. Evans is an award-winning attorney and industry leader based in Los Angeles. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com or via the company website: www.CSLlegal.com.

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