No 2013 playoff team has gone through a more dramatic makeover over the past two years than the Dodgers. When '12 began, then-owner Frank McCourt was in the throes of bankruptcy, and the club was coming off an 82-win, third-place finish.
Los Angeles' fortunes began to change the instant Guggenheim Baseball Management won control of the team in March 2012 with a bid of $2.15 billion, nearly doubling the previous record for a U.S. sports franchise. That standard had been set by the NFL's Miami Dolphins, who were sold for $1.1 billion in '09.
GBM, which is led by chairman Mark Walter and also includes partners NBA legend Magic Johnson and team president Stan Kasten, hasn't stopped spending. The club's Opening Day payroll increased from $105.4 million in 2012 to $216.8 million in '13, and the Dodgers went from narrowly missing out on the National League Wild Card last year to running away with the NL West this season.
Los Angeles has won with a radically different team. Of the 25 players on its Division Series roster, 13 of them weren't with the organization when GBM took ownership of the franchise.
"Mark Walter and the new ownership came in and wanted to win," Dodgers assistant general manager and vice president of amateur scouting Logan White said. "They were willing to spend money to be good. We do place a premium on guys with track record and experience, and we've been able to go out and get them."
Two of the Dodgers cornerstones already were in place well before GBM bought the team, arriving via the First-Year Player Draft. Matt Kemp, who will miss the postseason with an ankle injury, was a steal in the sixth round of the 2003 Draft, while Clayton Kershaw was the No. 7 overall pick in '06.
Kemp was better known as a basketball player at Midwest City (Okla.) High School, and the University of Oklahoma recruited him to play hoops. Though he lacked baseball instincts because of his relative inexperience on the diamond, his athleticism was obvious. He reached Los Angeles less than three years later after signing for $130,000.
Kershaw, who has won the past three NL ERA titles and could grab his second NL Cy Young Award in three years, might never have become a Dodger had the club not failed to sign its top 2005 Draft choice, supplemental first-rounder Luke Hochevar.
Hochevar agreed to a $2.98 million bonus on Labor Day weekend in 2005, then changed his mind and eventually re-entered the '06 Draft. The Royals surprised many in the industry by selecting Hochevar No. 1 overall and bypassing Andrew Miller, the consensus top prospect. The Tigers pounced on Miller at No. 6, and the Dodgers breathed a sigh of relief.
|A.J. Ellis||Draft||2003 (18th)|
|Kenley Jansen||Int'l sign||2004|
|Scott Van Slyke||Draft||2005 (14th)|
|Clayton Kershaw||Draft||2006 (1st)|
|Chris Withrow||Draft||2007 (1st)|
|Dee Gordon||Draft||2008 (4th)|
|Paco Rodriugez||Draft||2012 (2nd)|
|Yasiel Puig||Int'l sign||2012|
|Hyun-Jin Ryu||Int'l sign||2012|
"I know for a fact that if we signed Luke Hochevar, we wouldn't have gotten Clayton Kershaw," White said. "When Kansas City took Hochevar, it pushed Andrew Miller to the Tigers and Kershaw to us. If Miller had been gone, the Tigers really liked Kershaw and they would have taken him."
Kershaw's $2.3 million bonus was a club record for a draftee at the time. At the other end of the financial spectrum, Los Angeles found a starting catcher for $2,500 and an 18th-round pick in 2003, landing A.J. Ellis as a senior out of Austin Peay State University.
The Dodgers cut back on their international amateur spending for most of the previous decade, but they did find a gem in Kenley Jansen. Signed for $85,000 out of Curacao in 2004, he spent his first five pro seasons as a catcher before taking his strong arm to the mound and becoming a dominating closer.
The new ownership group has given the green light to spend money -- and lots of it -- on the international market. In June 2012, the Dodgers stunned many clubs when they handed a $12 million bonus and a seven-year, $42 million big league contract to a Cuban defector who hadn't played in a live game in nearly a year. But that investment already has paid huge dividends, as Yasiel Puig made his big league debut on June 3 and sparked Los Angeles' move from last place to first.
The Dodgers upped the ante last offseason, when they paid $25.7 million for the negotiating rights to Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu before giving him a six-year, $36 million contract. He stepped right in and has been every bit the No. 3 starter Los Angeles projected him to be.
"We were always prepared to do well internationally," said White, who was strongly involved in the Dodgers' global effort before vice president of international scouting Bob Engle was hired last November. "I think we did well when we had less money.
"Now we have the backing to go get it done. There's a push on ownership's part and with Stan. They want us to be the best internationally."
Ned Colletti became GM of the Dodgers in November 2005, and his first major transaction came a month later when he dealt Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez to the Athletics for Andre Ethier. Ethier immediately became a mainstay in Los Angeles' lineup, though an ankle injury may limit him this postseason.
Acquired via trade
|Tim Federowicz||2011||Red Sox|
|Carl Crawford||2012||Red Sox|
|Adrian Gonzalez||2012||Red Sox|
|Nick Punto||2012||Red Sox|
Colletti continued to make trades after the lopsided Ethier deal, but McCourt's limited financial resources handicapped his GM in terms of the contracts he could take on. As is true with other avenues of player acquisition, Colletti has been able to be much more aggressive on the trade front since GBM took over.
Hanley Ramirez was stagnating in Miami before the Dodgers acquired him (and the $36.5 million remaining on his contract) along with Randy Choate for Nathan Eovaldi and Minor League right-hander Scott McGough in July 2012. That was a mere prelude to a blockbuster the following month.
The reeling Red Sox shipped Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to Los Angeles. In return, the Dodgers took on $264.7 million in salary commitments while giving up two of their best pitching prospects (Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster ) and three position players (James Loney, Jerry Sands and Ivan De Jesus Jr.).
A year later, Ramirez set a career high for OPS, Gonzalez led Los Angeles in homers and RBIs and Crawford topped the club in steals.
Colletti has continued to add to his team with in-season deals in 2013. He bolstered the rotation in July by getting Ricky Nolasco from the Marlins for Steve Ames, Josh Wall and Minor League right-hander Angel Sanchez. At the end of August, Colletti pried Michael Young from the Phillies for Minor League lefty Rob Rasmussen.
"We were able to get Gonzalez and all those guys, because we had players to trade for them," White said. "We're going to be in on key Major League free agents, key players in trades, key players in the Draft and internationally. I love the mix.
"We want the guys we sign to play in the big leagues. Hopefully it's for us, but it it's for someone else and they help us in trades, that's fine."
Acquired via free agency
|Ronald Belisario||MiLB FA||2009|
Los Angeles' new ownership also made a big splash in its first foray into the free-agent market. On the same weekend that the Dodgers signed Ryu, they also made Zack Greinke the second-highest-paid pitcher to that point in baseball history. Greinke signed a six-year contract worth $159 million, then led the NL in winning percentage and had his best season since he was the American League Cy Young Award winner in 2009.
Greinke is the lone big-ticket free agent on the Division Series roster. Infield starters Mark Ellis (two years, $8.75 million) and Juan Uribe (three years, $21 million) required much smaller investments to become Dodgers when they were signed. The same is true of top setup men Ronald Belisario (a Minor League free agent in 2009), J.P. Howell (one year, $2.85 million) and Brian Wilson (one year, $1 million).