Stan Kasten, part of the Dodgers' ownership group, speaks during… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )
This is how it largely worked for Ned Colletti in recent years: Frank McCourt would give him a number, and then expect the general manager to bring in the team payroll at or under that figure.
So maybe he loses a Hiroki Kuroda because he costs a tad too much, and then tries to make up for it by signing Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano.
Those payroll juggling days, however, may be over for Colletti. At least in the fashion he’s grown accustomed to.
New team President Stan Kasten said Wednesday that’s not the way he operates. There will be no preset payroll figure; the Dodgers’ opening-day payroll this season was $91 million.
“I expect moving forward it’s going to be north of where it is now,” Kasten said. “But I have to tell you, I never focus on a target in getting the 25 guys. Because as you know, there are some teams that are really good with very low payrolls, and you would rather have those teams than a higher payroll team that’s not.
“So focus on the players that we get and don’t worry so much about the payroll. I don’t have a set number for you because we’re not going to do it that way. We’re going to take every opportunity that we can. If that means increasing payroll, then that’s what’s going to happen.”
Kasten also said Dodgers controlling partner Mark Walter has given him the authority to pursue whatever free agents he deems a proper fit.
“You can expect us to be aggressive,” Kasten said. “We’re going to be in on everything, but it has to fit for us. It has to fit short term and it has to fit long term. That’s a complicated question that I can’t answer with a yes or no, except to say we’re going to be aggressive and seize on every opportunity.
“Mark has given me the authority, the autonomy and the resources to do exactly that.”
Other topics Kasten touched on after Wednesday’s press conference:
-- The organizational staff is too lean.
“I know we have some openings, people that we’re looking to hire right now. It occurs to me, we’re also understaffed in some areas. I will certainly be working to fix those things as soon as possible.
“I think it’s a thin organization in a number of areas. There may be a good reason for that. I want to take time to learn that. I’m not coming in with any preconceptions.”
Yeah, there’s a good reason. McCourt’s front-office carousel was a national embarrassment.
-- Some early priorities will be on the farm system, scouting and stadium infrastructure, but he’s trying not to operate under preconceived ideas.
“We’re going to do all the things we need to. We’ve discussed a lot of things today that I want to do, but I don’t know enough to tell you the answers. Like infrastructure, like entertainment, like amenities, like enhancements, and like payroll. I don’t know enough about circumstances, but I can’t wait to get started and find out.”
-- He has already met with executives of Levy, the stadium concessionaire, observed the long lines, and made clear his priorities at the refreshment stands – variety, quality, prices and service.
-- His interest in modernizing Dodger Stadium is not just about the structure itself.
“I do know this, I go to other stadiums and I see what’s available in terms of video and electronics at a higher level almost every place we go. I want to understand why that is and what can be done about it, if anything. That would obviously impact the game presentation. I want it to be the best it can be. Twenty-first century fans kind of expect that. And if they expect it, I want to deliver it.”