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Dodgers showed some foresight

Club seemed to have sensed the current flurry of contract extensions and the potential for a weak free-agent market when it acquired a few players in trades last season.

April 06, 2013|By Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times
  • Dodgers acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, left, and outfielder Carl Crawford from the Boston Red Sox in August of last year.
Dodgers acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, left, and outfielder… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

By defecting from his superstar agent last week, Robinson Cano made the Dodgers look pretty smart. It's not all about the money, even for the local team that has an apparently endless amount of it.

Cano ditched Scott Boras to ally with Jay-Z, the rap mogul who sang his "Empire State of Mind" hit at the New York Yankees' World Series parade in 2009. The song includes this line: "I made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can."

Cano could be the marquee name in free agency this fall, but the agent switch makes it far more likely he stays with the Yankees. The flurry of contract extensions as the season got underway, with Buster Posey, Justin Verlander, Elvis Andrus and Adam Wainwright the most notable recipients, accelerate the trend of stars foregoing free agency.

The Dodgers could sense the trend when they acquired shortstop Hanley Ramirez from the Miami Marlins in July, then first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and outfielder Carl Crawford from the Boston Red Sox in August. They swallowed $300 million to do it, as an alternative to a free-agent market that offered little in the way of impact hitters.

They also spent $147 million on Zack Greinke, even with a surplus of in-house starters, with elite pitchers about to become an endangered species in free agency.

"Just because you have the financial wherewithal doesn't mean a player is available," General Manager Ned Colletti said.

The options among first basemen in free agency last fall included Adam LaRoche, three years older than Gonzalez, and Lance Berkman and Mike Napoli, dangerous in a league with no designated hitter.

There is no sure thing among starting pitchers that could be free agents next fall, with Josh Johnson, Tim Lincecum and Jason Vargas among the candidates.

Clayton Kershaw cannot be a free agent until after the 2014 season, but the Dodgers and his representatives remain in touch about a new contract that could top $200 million. If the Dodgers can keep the discussions quiet, Kershaw appears willing to let them continue. If the ace senses any distraction to his teammates, he could stop the talks at once.

Fishy business

After he fleeced Florida taxpayers into providing most of the millions for his new ballpark, then tore apart his team to save millions more, Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria greeted the new season thusly: "People will look back two years from now and say, 'They did the right thing,' " according to the Palm Beach Post.

The prospects might come; the fans might not. The Marlins are 1-4 and plenty of good seats remain available for Monday's home opener.

In the meantime, the Marlins were desperately trying to find a first baseman on their roster, according to the Miami Herald. Outfielder Chris Coghlan brought an outfielder's glove to the tryouts; catcher Miguel Olivo used his catcher's mitt.

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