There haven’t been many opportunities in the last year to type or say the words you see in the above headline, but today’s Blue Crew news is deserving of them. Earlier, Magic Johnson announced that he is partnering with former Braves and Nationals executive Stan Kasten and Guggenheim Partners CEO Mark Walter to make an ownership bid for the Dodgers.
Of course, Magic is only the latest in a laundry list of celebrity bidders (Cuban, Garvey/Hershiser, O’Malley, Torre, etc.) to reportedly express interest in running the team. But whenever Magic’s name is involved, you have to get excited. More importantly, the Magic ownership group would match style with substance.
Kasten has front office experience dating to 1979, when he was the general manager of the Atlanta Hawks. As President of the Atlanta Braves from 1987 to 2003, he presided over 13 straight division title teams, starting in 1991. From 2006 to 2010, he served as President of the Washington Nationals. Warner would add desperately needed financial might to the Dodger organization. And Magic is, well, Magic. Everything the guy has touched in Los Angeles has turned to gold.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers churn on with the less thrilling elements of their offseason. After blowing over $14 million on a combination of has-beens/never-weres (Juan Rivera: 1 year, $4.5M, Mark Ellis: 2 years, $8.75M, Adam Kennedy: 1 year, $800K), G.M. Ned Colletti finally made a good move, signing former Mets and Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano to a two-year, $10M deal.
The addition of Capuano is a farewell nod to Hiroki Kuroda, one of the team’s most valuable contributors over the last four seasons. Although the Dodgers will miss Kuroda, he is a luxury they cannot afford in these times of financial distress. With a projected team payroll around $20M lower than last year’s $110M, forking over at least two years and double-digit millions annually to a 36-year-old (turning 37 in February), would not be prudent.
Despite the wide gulf in the two pitchers’ 2011 ERAs (Kuroda: 3.07, Capuano: 4.55), some of their more important numbers were quite similar. Kuroda had a higher WAR (2.4 to 1.6), but the pair had the same 3.17-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and Capuano’s 3.60 SIERA (a pitcher’s expected ERA independent of defense, ballpark and other mitigating factors; visit my friend Ethan Resnick’s website breakingdownbaseball.com for an extensive database) was actually a touch better than Kuroda’s 3.66 mark.
Capuano missed 2.5 years of his prime after a second Tommy John surgery in 2008, but last season at age 33, he posted the highest K/9 rate (8.2) and second-lowest BB/9 rate (2.59) of his career.
ERA alone would indicate that Kuroda had his finest season in the majors in 2011, but SIERA and WAR put it below his 2010 campaign. Although I strongly doubt Kuroda’s decline over the next two years will be precipitous, I also doubt his pitching will be markedly better than Capuano’s. And by saving at least $10 million for upcoming offseason spending, the Dodgers can pursue more important deals, like an extension for Clayton Kershaw.