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Last week, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox completed an unprecedented trade, one whose aftershocks might be felt in the Rocky Mountain region for years to come. For the first time, two players with more than $100 million left on their contracts were included in a deal, and the fact that it happened so late in the season made it all the more remarkable.
For Rockies fans, the specifics of the trade are less important than its long-term ramifications. That the Dodgers have been able to add about $300 million in guaranteed salaries in the past month or so should send a chill through the National League West division’s collective spine.
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For almost two decades now, the New York Yankees have earned their “Evil Empire” moniker by outspending every team in baseball, usually by tens of millions of dollars per year. Since the Dodgers were sold earlier this year to a group—led by, among others, Magic Johnson—for the eye-popping price tag of $2.15 billion, they’ve given every indication that they intend to trump the Yankees’ free-spending ways.
This doesn’t mean everyone else is out of luck. After all, the Yankees’ extravagance has resulted in only one title since 2000. And as this year’s standings illustrate, low-payroll teams such as Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, and Oakland can still compete if they have the right combination of player development (i.e., a strong farm system), major-league talent, and a shrewd front office.
By now it should be clear that the Rockies have none of the above. For the foreseeable future, they’ll be trying to win a division that includes the ultra-megabucks Dodgers, the always pitching-rich Giants, a Diamondbacks squad with tons of young talent, and a Padres team that has stayed ahead of the Rockies all season despite being in the midst of an explicit rebuilding phase. (The Padres also have new ownership that, while it won’t match the Dodgers’ financial aggressiveness, will at least ramp up the team’s efforts to win.)
Although the Rockies have a few promising young(-ish) players—none of them pitchers—the team that many had predicted would challenge for a playoff spot this season suddenly looks like it might be fighting to stay out of the cellar until further notice. We’re about to complete five full seasons since the Rockies’ miracle 2007 World Series run; it might be a very long time before Denver fans witness another one.