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Insider

New ownership marks new Dodgers era

3/28/2012

For a reported $2 billion, Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten -- backed by Guggenheim Partners -- will run the Los Angeles Dodgers. And the changes will be almost immediate.

(The New York Times is reporting that the sale was for $2.15 billion, which factors in land around the stadium, including the parking lots.)

The team's payroll is at $90 million, or about what the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers are spending. If you think that an ownership group that just agreed to spend about 2.5 times more than has ever been spent for any baseball team is going to keep the Dodgers' payroll among the row houses of baseball, well, you might also think that Frank McCourt is beloved in Los Angeles. The Dodgers are moving up, again.

The investment return for this new ownership group will come largely through its television revenue, and the way the Dodgers can make the team more watchable is by building a winner -- the kind of winner that the O'Malleys fostered, as the Dodgers won championships in 1959 and '63 and '65 and '81 and '88, and also played in the World Series in '66 and '74 and '77 and '78. The Dodgers were in the playoffs constantly, led by recognizable stars, from Koufax to Drysdale to Steve Garvey.

Under the Guggenheim/Magic/Kasten group, there will never be an offseason in which the Dodgers' biggest acquisitions are No. 4 starters and utility men, as we saw this past offseason. This team has very little payroll obligation going forward, beyond Matt Kemp's new eight-year, $160 million deal, and the franchise has enormous room to grow, and money will be spent.

As Johnson began this quest to buy the Dodgers, he could not have been more clear about what his vision for the franchise is built around: on-field success. He wants to win. He lamented the fact, last fall, that he wasn't in position to help the Dodgers pursue players during the 2011-12 offseason. His intent, he said, is to be ready for the next free-agency period. On the day that teams can talk to prospective free agents, he said -- at 12:01 a.m. -- his intent is to be recruiting.

The improvements will start even before Cole Hamels and Matt Cain might hit the market next fall, though. Presumably, the new ownership group will be approved sometime in the next six weeks, which means that during the summer, the Dodgers' new owners will be in position to cull through market opportunities that might present themselves -- a pricey, productive veteran who has become too expensive for his current team.

For years, the Dodgers were involved in the big-name market, as the New York Yankees always are, as the Boston Red Sox always are. The Dodgers were the crown jewel of the West Coast. Now they can be again.

In recent years, players like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols and others passed through the market without the Dodgers making a serious offer. That change will be immediate.

Frank McCourt is going to retain some elements in this deal, as Bill Shaikin writes.

Magic is the perfect guy to take over, writes Bill Plaschke. T.J. Simers considers what could go wrong.

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti exchanged e-mails with Stan Kasten on Tuesday.

From ESPN Stats & Information:

• Last week, Forbes Magazine released its valuations for MLB franchises, and the Dodgers were valued at $1.4 billion, the second-highest valuation in the league behind the Yankees ($1.85 billion).

• Attendance was down significantly for the Dodgers in 2011, with an average attendance nearly 8,000 fewer per game than in 2010 and more than 10,000 fewer than in 2009.

Notables

• The two folks who could see immediate ripple effects from the Dodgers deal: Cole Hamels and Matt Cain, who are in line to be eligible for free agency this fall. The contract talks with both players are in a holding pattern, and now their situation couldn't be more clearly defined for their current teams: There is a new and aggressive Dodgers ownership on the horizon, and if the Philadelphia Phillies don't pay Hamels market value, the Dodgers could; if the San Francisco Giants don't pay Cain market value, the Dodgers could.

Lorenzo Cain is arguably the Cactus League MVP after dominating this spring. Right after the Kansas City Royals traded Melky Cabrera to the Giants, Kansas City GM Dayton Moore called Cain and essentially told him that the Royals' center field job belonged to him. And Cain has arrived in camp and thrived, so far. "He has continued to make very good adjustments to the breaking stuff," senior advisor Mike Arbuckle wrote in an e-mail, in response to a question. "He has better strike zone discipline and rarely misses a fastball he should hit. His defense in CF has been plus, as it has always been. He looks very confident and acts like he belongs in the majors."

• Casey Kelly, who was the centerpiece of the Padres-Boston Adrian Gonzalez trade, had a good outing on Tuesday, walking just one in 5 2/3 innings. "This spring has been a nice step forward," Padres GM Josh Byrnes wrote in an e-mail response. "He has moved to the first-base side of the rubber, sped up his delivery and lengthened his arm stroke. His stuff has seemed more explosive. [Pitching coach] Darren Balsley and our staff have done a nice job with him."

Dexter Fowler has had a really rough spring, as Troy Renck writes.

• Drew Smyly gets his next audition for the Tigers' No. 5 spot today against the St. Louis Cardinals, as John Lowe writes. Andy Oliver had a bad day.

• The Twins' camp is finishing well.

• The Colorado Rockies cut infielder Casey Blake, and Chris Nelson and Jordan Pacheco will open the season at third, writes Patrick Saunders.

Joba Chamberlain explained what happened.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. With Drew Storen likely to start the year on the disabled list, Brad Lidge is ready to step in at closer.

2. Simply put, when the Cleveland Indians watched Vladimir Guerrero work out the other day, it was due diligence. He doesn't fit their roster, because they already have another full-time DH, Travis Hafner, and to carry two would be just about unworkable. Here's more from Terry Pluto on Vlad/Cleveland.

3. Bruce Chen will get the ball for the Royals on Opening Day, Bob Dutton.

4. Jonathan Lucroy is happy with his new deal.

5. Yovani Gallardo is lined up to pitch Opening Day, although he hasn't been named the Opening Day starter officially, as Owen Perkins writes.

6. A midseason trade of Jake Peavy would be best for everybody involved, writes Phil Rogers.

The fight for jobs

1. Steve Lombardozzi is in position to get some playing time this year.

2. The Phillies still have an unfinished roster puzzle, writes Jim Salisbury.

3. Brandon Inge's fight to make the Tigers' roster is coming down to the final days.

4. Tyler Greene's time has arrived.

5. The Chicago Cubs are expected to resolve a couple of roster spots.

6. Bryan LaHair is officially the Cubs' first baseman.

7. Jeff Niemann will be in the Rays' rotation.

8. Chris Coghlan says he isn't fazed by the Marlins' roster decisions.

9. Jose Iglesias was sent to Triple-A. Mike Aviles is now the man in the middle for the Red Sox.

Dings and dents

1. Mat Latos strained his calf.

2. The Phillies' backup second baseman got nicked up.

3. Bill Bray hopes he'll be back on Opening Day.

4. B.J. Upton says he'll be ready for the opener.

5. A couple of Marlins outfielders are close to coming back.

Tuesday's games

1. Ubaldo Jimenez had mixed results, again, as Terry Pluto writes. Sheldon Ocker had a stronger review.

2. Bruce Bochy hopes his players aren't assuming they can turn on a switch.

3. Brandon Morrow pitched in a minor league game.

4. Lucas Duda continues to impress.

Other stuff

• The Seattle Mariners helped bring smiles to children devastated by last spring's tsunami, as Geoff Baker writes.

Stephen Strasburg is ready to open up his personality.

• Now is the time for a new Padres' owner with money and desire to step up, writes Tim Sullivan.

• The Texas Rangers have gotten good work out of their starting pitchers this spring.

• Phil Sheridan addresses the issue of lying about injuries.

Geoff Blum is preparing for an expanded role.

• Here is a position-by-position look at the Houston Astros, from Zachary Levine.

R.A. Dickey dug deep into his pain with his new book.

Kyle Drabek kept his cool.

• Peter Schmuck asks: Is there hope for the Baltimore Orioles?

Miguel Cabrera is cleared to play, and with that, the Tigers look ready to go, writes Drew Sharp.

Brayan Pena isn't complaining about being passed over as the Royals' every-day catcher.

Buster Posey turned 25, and he's ready to contribute, writes Henry Schulman.

• The Oakland Athletics are ready to take a run.

• A Twin honors his late sister with a tattoo.

• The Pirates' Josh Harrison is thriving.

• A Cardinals prospect was busted.

• The family of the motorcyclist injured by Matt Bush intends to sue.

• A Honus Wagner card could fetch $1.5 million.

And today will be better than yesterday.