Dodgers back to big spending ways

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:24 PM ET

TORONTO - There’s a special deal available on Cuban outfielders but you have to act fast. Supplies are limited and the madness ends Sunday at midnight.

And what a bargain it’s been so far: Three for $108 million. Where else can you get that kind of value?

Yoenis Cespedes signed with the Athletics for four years and $36 million. The Cubs grabbed Jorge Soler at nine years, $30 million and now the Dodgers have locked up Yasiel Puig for the next seven years at $42 million, with provisions for him to opt out and take his chances in arbitration after four years.

On July 2, as per the new collective bargaining agreement, there will be a $2.9-million cap imposed on international signings for each calendar year. At that point the market that has been so generous to Cuban defectors, especially this year, will dry up.

At 26, Cespedes is fully developed and he stepped right in and started producing from his first at-bat. He’s among the A’s offensive leaders with nine home runs, 34 RBI and an OPS of .853.

Soler, just 20, is more of a long-term project, athletic and powerful, but raw and will likely begin his minor league career in low-A ball. With the Cubs far away from winning, he’s a reasonably-priced investment.

Puig, who was swept away by a Dodgers outfit now apparently awash in cash, is a bit of a mystery. Some say he’s out of shape and will need a lot of work to get him ready. Others, including his agent Jaime Torres, expect him to be in the Dodger lineup in a matter of weeks. However long it takes, it seems this was a massive overpay but also a chilling signal to the other lords of baseball that the Dodgers are ready to flex their financial might after the blight of the Frank McCourt stewardship.

Dodger president Stan Kasten has said one of his primary goals is to return the Dodgers franchise to its former position as one of the top two or three in baseball. The new owners spent more than $2 billion to win the auction and stand to sell their media rights for a record-setting amount next off-season. Just now, Southern California is a battleground between Fox Sports and Time Warner Cable for dominance in the sports television arena.

The Los Angeles Angels signed on with Fox in what is believed to be a 20-year, $3-billion deal that will pay them $150 million a season. Time Warner is said to have signed up the L.A. Lakers for at least that much.

Fox Sports has exclusive negotiating rights with the Dodgers until November and once that option passes, the gloves will come off. That’s where the new owners will be able to easily justify the franchise pricetag, more than twice the previous record baseball franchise sale. The new Dodger TV deal could be in the range of $200 million a year, or more.

That kind of money has Kasten talking large as the big-league non-waiver trade deadline approaches at the end of July.

“I promise you we’ll explore everything,” Kasten told the LA Times this week. “Look, as candid as we can be, we’re the Dodgers. We’re supposed to be big. We intend to be big. Will we look at big things? You bet.”

After the McCourt era, Kasten and GM Ned Colletti don’t have a deep farm system with which to fashion major deadline deals but they can always bludgeon their opponents into submission with their wallets.

“I wish we were deeper in that regard,” Kasten said, of his team’s lack of prospects. “But if the resources involve money, we’ll be very flexible.”

Just ask Yasiel Puig.

Gullibility Runs In Family

With modern TV coverage, multiple cameras and hi-def resolution, it’s tough to be an umpire these days. We all understand that. The naked eye is no competition for multi-angled replay.

But what sets Mike DiMuro’s missed call of Dewayne Wise’s non-catch during the Yankee/Cleveland game on Tuesday apart from so many of them is that his error was fixable, right on the spot. It’s one thing to misinterpret what your eyes are telling you and quite another thing to fail to follow protocol. All DiMuro needed to do was ask Wise to show him the ball. The fact that Wise didn’t offer it, should have told the umpire everything he needed to know. Watch almost any case of a fielder making a tough grab. They invariably leap to their feet and offer the ball as proof. Unless they don’t have the ball.

Mike isn’t the first DiMuro to be tricked by some alleged sleight of hand. His father, Lou, was the umpire in the infamous shoe polish incident during Game 5 of the 1969 World Series.

With the Mets leading the series 3-1 but the Orioles ahead 3-0 in Game 5, Cleon Jones led off the sixth inning for New York. He took a pitch in the dirt that DiMuro called ball one and the ball was tossed out of play.

A moment later, Mets manager Gil Hodges came out of the dugout with the ball and pointed to black shoe polish on it, claiming Jones had been hit on the foot. DiMuro bought the story and awarded Jones first base. The next man, Donn Clendenon hit a two-run homer and the Amazins went on to win the game 5-3 and the Series 4-1.

Short Hops

Phils 1B Ryan Howard, who tore his achilles tendon in the playoffs last year, started his rehab assignment at class-A Thursday, going 2-for-4 with three RBI..... Franklin Gutierrez, who just returned to the Seattle lineup two weeks ago after missing the first 60 games with a torn pec muscle and a heel injury, was hit in the face by Boston reliever Franklin Morales on a pickoff attempt at first base and suffered a concussion. ..... Earlier this month, the Orioles swept the Pirates in a three-game series and scored 27 runs. In the 12 games following that sweep, the O’s scored a total of 23 runs, winning just four times. In their last 10 games, through Thursday, they were 3-for-52 with runners in scoring position.

Amazing Giants

The San Francisco Giants zeroed in on first place in the NL West this week. Literally.

The Giants shut out the then-first place Dodgers three games in a row (8-0, 2-0 and 3-0) and then followed up with a fourth consecutive whitewash of the Cincinnati Reds, 5-0, on Thursday.

In their 130-year history, no Giants team has recorded four shutouts in a row until this week. The kicker to this record-setting streak is that San Francisco moved past Los Angeles and into top spot in the process.

Madison Bumgarner tossed a one-hitter against the Reds with his first career complete game to set the record. When he went up to the Giants’ clubhouse after the eighth inning, he learned that he and his mates had tied the Giants’ longest previous scoreless streak at 35 innings.

“Oh, gosh. No pressure,” Bumgarner said to himself. He then went to the mound for a 1-2-3 ninth to set the record, one more inning than the 35 shutout innings recorded in 1960 by Billy O’Dell, Jack Sanford, Sam Jones and Mike McCormick.

The MLB record for consecutive shutout innings is 56, accomplished by the Pittsburgh Pirates from June 1-9 in 1903.

Friday night Matt Cain went to the mound to try to extend the streak, having been offered a bit of encouragement by Bumgarner.

“I said, ‘Don’t worry about it. There’s no pressure. All you’ve got to do is throw a shutout.’ ”

Suit and tie fiasco

Seems Arizona Diamondbacks play-by-play broadcaster Daron Sutton has been suspended for — get this — wearing a suit and tie. No guff.

The official reason is “insubordination” according to the Arizona Republic. The baseball team’s official wardrobe for broadcasters is a polo shirt with the team logo on it. Sutton has preferred to wear suits.

He referred to the controversy during the broadcast of a game on June 20 and that’s the last game he worked. He was still scheduled to call Fox Sports’ national telecast of Saturday’s game between the D-Backs and Milwaukee Brewers but it’s unclear if that will happen now.

Apparently Sutton and the Diamondbacks have been at odds for several years regarding what constitutes a professional on-air appearance. Now the team may have solved the controversy by fitting him for one of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloaks.

Burnett on a big run

A couple of weeks back, in the eighth inning of a game against Kansas City, Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle went to the mound and took the ball from A.J. Burnett, shooing him to the bench.

Then a strange thing happened. Just about every one of the 25,000-plus people in the seats at PNC Park rose, cheering in appreciation, as Burnett made the slow walk to the dugout.

“I’ve had a couple like that in my career,” Burnett said afterward. “My last start in Toronto and a couple in Yankee Stadium. You never forget them. You have to respond when you get those. It was unbelievable.”

Burnett doffed his cap and held it high in appreciation.

That’s not the kind of moment anyone who’s even remotely followed Burnett’s progression the last couple of seasons would have expected. Chased out of New York after seasons of 5.26 and 5.15 ERA’s while earning $16 million a year, nobody saw this season coming.

Burnett is 9-2 with the surging Pirates and has won eight starts in a row. He carries a 3.31 ERA but if you throw out one start (May 2 at St. Louis) when he went 2.2 innings and was tagged with 12 runs, Burnett has a 2.05 ERA in his other 12 starts. In each of those starts, he has allowed three or fewer earned runs.

“I came to a team that wanted me bad,” Burnett told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “That was important to me. I had heard that this was a great sports town, that people really love their sports here. The fans supported me before I even threw my first pitch (of the season). They’re excited I’m here and I’m excited to be here.”

The Pirates, with 19 consecutive losing seasons behind them, went into Friday’s game in St. Louis trailing the NL Central leading Reds by a game and Burnett is a big reason why.

Thome’s back

Jim Thome’s recent hot streak during interleague play has led him to suggest to the Phillies that he would accept a trade back to an American League team.

After struggling in a pinch-hitting role for the Phils most of the season (0-for-10, 7 K’s), Thome got nine starts as a DH in AL parks and went 12-for-36 with four HR, a .415 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of .722

“The ideal situation right now, because he can’t really play defence in the National League, would be for Jim to play in the American League,” Phils GM Ruben Amaro told ESPN.com.

“He still has the ability to win a game for us and be productive off the bench. The problem is, the further away he gets from regular at-bats, the more difficult it becomes for him to do that. So we’ll see what happens. We’ll keep in contact with some clubs and see if there’s the right fit out there for Jim and for the Phillies.”

 


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