Dodgers co-owner and President Stan Kasten signs autographs for fans before… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)
If the Dodgers can add $260 million to their payroll in one trade -- and close to a half-billion dollars in four months -- is there a limit to their spending?
"Somewhere, I suppose," Chairman Mark Walter said Saturday.
And where might that limit be?
"I haven't found it yet," President Stan Kasten said. "I'll let you know when we get there."
As Adrian Gonzalez put on his Dodgers uniform for the first time, the new owners let it be known that they saw no reason to choose between paying the price to win now and paying the price to win later.
"We want to win now," Magic Johnson said. "We understand that you have to spend money to be good in this league."
Said Walter: "I don't think of it as a spending spree. We were in a position to make the team better."
Kasten declined to discuss criticism from rival executives wondering why the Dodgers would surrender any prospects to the Boston Red Sox -- let alone four of them -- rather than challenge the Red Sox to find another team willing to swallow $260 million in salaries.
"We're very comfortable with the result," Kasten said.
Yet Kasten emphasized the Dodgers had not wavered from their commitment to revitalize their scouting and player development operations, even with the loss of prospects such as pitchers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster from an already thin minor league system.
"This will not detract from any of our long-term plans," he said. "That's the real Dodger tradition I'm hoping to restore."
Kasten noted the Dodgers had spent $42 million on Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig before baseball's new limit on international spending took effect last month. Kasten said the Dodgers would spend the maximum $2.9 million permitted for international signings this year.
"That's a critical part of our plan," he said. "We want to win now. But, for us to have a chance at sustained success, we need scouting and player development."
Kasten listed a host of factors -- "position, history, age, demographics" -- that made Gonzalez attractive to the Dodgers. The team had tried to acquire him when the new owners took over in May, and again before the July trading deadline.
After the Red Sox realized they would not win this season, the Dodgers and Red Sox revived the talks and agreed on the framework for Friday's trade. But Gonzalez first had to get to the Dodgers -- that is, unclaimed on waivers by every American League club and many National League clubs -- and Kasten said he had not expected that to happen.
Walter said he understood that a big payroll did not guarantee success. He lives in Chicago, after all.
"The Cubs have a pretty good payroll," he said.
But he said he was amused by the perception that he was throwing a quarter-billion dollars from the sky all at once.
"This is payroll," he said. "I didn't write a check. We're not giving anyone raises."
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