Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason of every MLB team before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series continues with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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2012 record: 86-76
Finish: Second, NL West
2012 final payroll: $129.1 million
Estimated 2013 opening day payroll: $210 million
Yahoo! Sports offseason rank: 3
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When the Dodgers opened the 2012 season in San Diego, the day Frank McCourt and Magic Johnson sat beside each other and shared a large popcorn (not really) near the third-base dugout, Dee Gordon was at shortstop, Juan Rivera in left field, James Loney at first base and Juan Uribe at third. Clayton Kershaw was the starting pitcher, of course, and the next day he'd be followed by Chad Billingsley.
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In an offseason that started mid-summer – not because the Dodgers were that bad, but because the Dodgers had become that rich – times and lineups have changed. Assuming everyone shows up and gets/stays healthy, the Dodgers will open against the San Francisco Giants with Hanley Ramirez at shortstop (or third), Carl Crawford in left field (perhaps), Adrian Gonzalez at first base and probably not Uribe at third. When Kershaw is done, it will be Zack Greinke's turn to start. When all the accounting is done, including cutting the luxury-tax check, the Dodgers will have spent something close to $250 million on payroll and payroll-related costs.
This is a franchise that only a few years back couldn't afford Casey Blake. In 2013, the Dodgers owe Manny Ramirez $8.3 million and Andruw Jones $3.2 million and still swing the biggest wallet on the block. A television deal worth up to $8 billion over 20 years hasn't even kicked in yet.
After taking on the contracts of Gonzalez, Crawford, Josh Beckett and Hanley Ramirez, and already having extended Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier's contracts, and with Kershaw under club control for two more seasons, the Dodgers still went aggressively after Greinke. Because Chad Billingsley suffered from a partially torn elbow ligament last season and generally isn't anybody's No. 2 anyway, and because Beckett is something of a mystery, the Dodgers believed they needed a starter of heft behind Kershaw. Six years and $147 million later, Greinke is that hefty starter.
Otherwise, they committed $36 million to Korean lefty Ryu Hyun-Jin, $22.5 million to reliever Brandon League, $2.85 million to reliever J.P. Howell, and traded for utilityman Skip Schumaker.
When the first Dodgers arrive at Camelback Ranch, eight of them will be legit starting pitchers, including Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and, if healthy, Ted Lilly. It's possible, therefore, the Dodgers' offseason will extend well into spring training.
Early in the press conference that introduced Zack Greinke to Dodgers fans, a question was raised – to no one on the dais in particular, really – about the Dodgers' funds, and if they had no bounds.
Magic Johnson, all eight feet of him, raised slowly from his chair, covered the stage in a half-stride, leaned into the microphone and said, "We wanna win." He returned to his chair. There'd be no follow-up questions.
No apologies, no excuses, no moral victories, no stepping away from the best players because all that money was going to lawyers and hair stylists. Johnson knows how stars work in L.A., because he was one. Is one. And the Guggenheim guys agreed.
The result is a team that should win the NL West, a division that has turned out the World Series champion twice in the past three seasons. Stars hit behind stars. Stars pitch behind stars. The plan, of course, is for stars to win alongside stars. And that, of course, is the hard part.
Matt Kemp returns from shoulder surgery, Carl Crawford from elbow surgery. Adrian Gonzalez hit three home runs in 145 at-bats as a Dodger. Hanley Ramirez may no longer be a shortstop. When all the pieces settled in last summer, the Dodgers became not a juggernaut, but a .500 team. And the Giants ran off.
So, the fresh start means a full spring training, a new hitting coach in Mark McGwire, a lame-duck manager in Don Mattingly, as many questions as stars, and World Series-or-bust expectations for an organization that hasn't been there since 1988.
The day before the Boston Red Sox and Dodgers would come to agreement on a blockbuster trade that would unburden the Red Sox and restock the Dodgers, Crawford underwent Tommy John surgery.
Six months later, the Dodgers are somewhat confident Crawford can be their left fielder, hit first or second in the order, and resume a career that was All-Star caliber in St. Petersburg and tanked in Boston.
A whole Crawford rounds a lineup that struggled to score runs even after Ramirez and Gonzalez (and Shane Victorino) arrived. Kemp, Gonzalez, Ethier and Ramirez will better do their things if Crawford is capable of doing his.
For $20 million or more for each of the next five seasons, Crawford's production becomes even more critical, even for the flush Dodgers.
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