Baseball's longest, messiest ownership drama appears to be over. A group led by Magic Johnson has purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers from bankrupt owner Frank McCourt for $2 billion.
The purchase gives Major League Baseball and Dodgers fans hope that the franchise will again take its place in the upper echelon of baseball teams. That includes signing their top stars to long-term contracts, negotiating a new, historically lucrative television contract, and spending big on free agents and international talent.
And, for once, fans' hope appears to be well placed. Despite their recent ownership struggles, the Dodgers have a strong base of elite talent, are still very popular and profitable. The team has not added free agents or paid much for international talent in years but they do have a very strong core in place. So, with a few aggressive moves, Los Angeles could become an elite team as early as 2013.
Los Angeles' hitting is very good and could get significantly better. Matt Kemp, the Dodgers' center fielder, may be the best player in all of baseball. He is still in his prime and will be the centerpiece of a great team if the Dodgers move quickly. Dee Gordon, their young shortstop, will be an exceptional defender and a dervish on the base paths. He should be the team's leadoff hitter for years to come. Andre Ethier, their right fielder, could hit for power if he recovers from injury. The team could improve at first base, in left field, and at third base, which will be addressed in trades or next year's free agency when third baseman David Wright and first baseman Joey Votto could be available.
The Dodgers also have a great pitching staff. Los Angeles is led by Clayton Kershaw, the best young pitcher in baseball. He will be the staff ace for most of the next decade. Chad Billingsley remains a good starter. The team has several farmhands ready to help in the major leagues very soon. And, most important, ace pitchers Cole Hamels, Zack Grienke, and Matt Cain could be free agents next winter. If they have a new TV deal in place, the Dodgers' current low spending level would make them a player for all three elite pitchers. Can you imagine a Los Angeles top three of Kershaw, Hamels, and Cain? Wow.
So, not everything is fixed with the Dodgers' recent sale. But things look very, very hopeful in Southern California.
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