Spending big on stars only helps Dodgers

BY Ken Rosenthal • November 14, 2011

Nice to see the Dodgers back in business. But why stop with Matt Kemp?

I said it once and I’ll say it again: The Dodgers should pursue Prince Fielder, one of the two big first basemen on the free-agent market along with Albert Pujols.

I know the team is in bankruptcy. I know it is in the process of being sold. I know Frank McCourt, gentleman that he is, might not want saddle the next owner with a burdensome contract.

But let’s play this out logically.

The Dodgers reached agreement with Kemp on an eight-year, $160 million deal Monday knowing that securing him long-term would only raise the value of the club.

Well, guess what?

Kemp is 27. Fielder is 27. Kemp bats right, Fielder left. Put them together in the same lineup and what? The Dodgers are going to be worth less?

I seriously doubt even the stingiest bankruptcy-court judge would disagree.

The Dodgers’ deal with Kemp is the first sign that the dark days of the McCourt era are over, and that the sun is finally about to rise again at Chavez Ravine.

General manager Ned Colletti also reached agreement with free-agent second baseman Mark Ellis on a two-year, $8.75 million contract Monday.

Left-hander Clayton Kershaw, the pitching version of Kemp, surely is on Colletti’s long-term to-do list as well. Right-handers Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander signed five-year deals in the $80 million range when they were two years away from free agency. Kershaw is three years away.

Oh, it’s on, baby.

The Dodgers’ coming renaissance is bad news for their NL West rivals, alarming news for their AL neighbors in Anaheim and great news for the industry as a whole.

Heck, commissioner Bud Selig is about to get on such a roll, he might even retire in peace after next season — assuming, of course, that he retires at all.

A new, five-year labor agreement is within reach. The Dodgers’ sale is progressing, and the Astros’ sale is virtually complete, with their expected move to the AL enabling the sport to split into two 15-team leagues.

Straighten out the Mets, get the Athletics to San Jose and find a solution for the Rays — all easier said than done — and Selig can retire in utter triumph.

OK, OK, one step at a time.

Better ownership won’t necessarily assure the Dodgers of super-power status; Colletti hasn’t always spent well in the past and the team’s agreement with Ellis and one-year, $4.5 million deal with outfielder Juan Rivera, while relatively modest, seem a bit high. Still, the Dodgers possess deeper financial resources than any other team in the NL West, and their coming TV deal will put them in an even greater position of strength.

The Kemp deal amounts to a warning shot, and not just to division opponents. It will be interesting to see how the Angels, in particular, respond. Jerry Dipoto, the team’s new GM, has not ruled out a run at Pujols or Fielder, but owner Arte Moreno seems to disdain negotiating with free agents.

Well, the Angels are facing serious heat from the Rangers in their own division and soon will face it from the Dodgers in their own backyard. Some of the Angels’ young players are quite good. Manager Mike Scioscia always keeps the team in contention. But Moreno no longer can ignore the competitive realities surrounding his franchise.

Kemp’s deal will be the seventh-largest in baseball history — and nearly twice as large as the biggest contract ever awarded by the Angels, the five-year, $90 million deal that they gave free-agent outfielder Torii Hunter in November 2007.

Truth be told, Kemp might have commanded an even bigger contract if he had waited to become a free agent after next season. Heck, he might have commanded a bigger one if he had just waited for Pujols and Fielder to sign their new deals. Kemp plays a premium up-the-middle position, and is arguably more valuable than both first basemen.

See? There’s another reason for the Dodgers to sign Fielder. Kemp gave them a bargain.

Shout it to the world. Tell it to the bankruptcy-court judge.

Let the Dodgers be the Dodgers again.

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