Ever since the news of Frank and Jamie McCourt's divorce proceedings broke last October, Dodgers fans have been wondering (and dreading) if the ownership dispute would impact the team's operations. The first two months of the offseason have been quiet enough in L.A. to make it look like the Dodgers are themselves also still waiting to see how things will play out with the McCourts and have thus been in a holding pattern in regards to next season's payroll.
This isn't to say that Los Angeles hasn't been active. The Dodgers traded Juan Pierre to the White Sox, were involved in the Roy Halladay sweepstakes, tried to acquire Aaron Harang from Cincinnati and signed utilityman Jamey Carroll. But, as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports pointed out today, the club is playing even-steven with its offseason moves in order to steady the budget. For instance, the Dodgers saved $8MM over the next two seasons by dealing Pierre, and spent $3.85MM of those savings to sign Carroll. Acquiring another notable free agent (such as Rosenthal's example of Joel Pineiro) would require L.A. to make another move to free up the cash to sign the right-hander.
We've already seen a bit of penny-pinching from the team this winter when they didn't offer arbitration to any of their free agents, passing on the chance to acquire compensatory draft picks for Type A free agents Orlando Hudson and Randy Wolf out of fear that Hudson or Wolf might accept the offer. The bright side for Dodgers fans is that the team is at least keeping the payroll stable, rather than shifting into outright cost-cutting mode. Rosenthal notes that there are no plans to deal any of L.A.'s young stars before their arbitration years --- trading the likes of Andre Ethier, for example, would be "counter-productive" given Ethier's reasonable arbitration number and Manny Ramirez's slight decline.
This stand-pat strategy will force Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti to be creative in filling the holes on a club that has lost the NLCS to Philadelphia in each of the last two seasons. Rosenthal said that George Sherrill is "a candidate to be traded," but L.A. wouldn't save much money from the deal and getting rid of Sherrill would weaken their bullpen. There is also a need to sign a veteran like Pineiro to anchor the otherwise young starting rotation.