I know it seems so long ago now, but there was actually once a point where the Dodgers could barely afford to fill out their roster with actual big-league talent. Way back in the dark, cold off-season of 2011-12, before the Guggenheim group came in and when we could count on Bill Shaikin camping outside a Delaware court room for days at a time, the Dodgers had a thin roster and little in the way of dollars to flesh it out.
Faced with holes and such a limited budget, Ned Colletti’s plan was to get as many mid-level veterans as he could just to put a team together, and to give them all backloaded two-year deals. In some cases that was to make the budget work; in others, it was because some of these guys likely couldn’t find a guaranteed second year elsewhere.
Or as I said when Gwynn was signed:
Yet it’s the second guaranteed year that’s really galling here, and I’m not just talking about the obvious jokes regarding Ned Colletti handing out two years to every warm body he can find. (Speaking of which, Rivera must be wondering what’s wrong with his agent right now, right?) Unlike free agents like Mark Ellis, Chris Capuano, or Aaron Harang, players who had to be lured off the open market with the promise of a multiyear deal, Gwynn was under team control. They merely needed to tender him a contract, and he’d have been theirs for 2012. Would he have made more than $850k? Probably, but not by a whole lot; it almost seems that in order to save a lousy $200k right now, Colletti felt it was worth it to hand out a second guaranteed year.
Now, Magic Johnson might be spending $200k to get custom cigars made out of $100 bills, then lighting those with $50s. As you can imagine, this strategy wasn’t all that popular at the time, but now that those deals are all completed, I have to be honest: this didn’t work out too badly at all.
Capuano provided 304 innings of 3.91 ERA ball and 3.2 WAR for $10m, including his buyout.
Ellis put up 4.5 WAR in 944 plate appearances while making $8.7m, including his buyout.
Hairston faded terribly in 2013 and almost entirely negated his 2012 value, combining for just 0.2 WAR for $6m, but his ability to play so many positions was vital considering how many injuries this team had, especially in 2012.
Harang had 1.6 WAR in 179.2 innings last year, then was dealt off for Ramon Hernandez (0.4) this year, for a total outlay of something in the neighborhood of $8 million.
Gwynn was the only true bust here, because after being sub-replacement last year (-0.3 WAR) he spent all of 2013 in the minors, validating that the deal never made sense in the first place.
Total outlay here is approximately $34.7 million and 9.4 WAR. The going value of a win is somewhere in the $5m-$7m range, so depending on how you value that, these deals broke even at worst.
All in all, that’s not too bad, especially considering the situation of the time, even if we disliked most of them. So kudos to you, Ned, credit where credit is due. Now, if we can just do something about those three-year deals to mediocre pitchers — Brandon League, Matt Guerrier, Ted Lilly — then we’ll be getting somewhere.