Everything you ever wanted to know about the McCourt divorce but were afraid to ask

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Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine has a long but very interesting and very comprehensive article up about Frank and Jamie McCourt, their ownership of the Dodgers, their divorce and what it’s done and continues to do to the team.  It’s must-read material for Dodgers fans or anyone who is interested in the politics of baseball ownership.  It’s still highly entertaining reading for anyone else.

For all of the stuff about the legal battle and the McCourts’ opulent lifestyle, this passage stood out to me:

While the McCourts were living large, the Dodgers, in 2008 and 2009,
spent less than any other MLB team on the draft and international-player
signings, an area the team once dominated. Frank told reporters during
spring training that the divorce has nothing to do with the payroll; and
multiple former club execs say there’s truth to the claim. “It was
Frank’s plan all along to run a team with a payroll of about $80
million,” says a former high-ranking club official speaking on condition
of anonymity. “His thinking since he bought the team was: ‘This isn’t
the AL East. Why would I spend $150 million to win 98 games when I can
spend half that to win 90, if that’s all it takes to make the playoffs
in our division?’

All along I had been dismissing McCourt’s claims that his divorce had nothing to do with the Dodgers’ decisions to skimp on player development and payroll. Turns out I was wrong. It’s not the divorce doing that, it’s McCourt’s very business plan.

Too bad that “I can spend half that and win 90” logic falls apart when the major leaguers you depend upon get old and you have (a) no farm system to replenish the roster; and (b) you’ve arranged your business affairs in such a way that upping Major League payroll to go get free agents to make up for it is impossible.

Report: Ben Zobrist’s price tag is currently four years, $60 million

Ben Zobrist
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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Ben Zobrist will turn 35 years old early next summer, but that doesn’t seem to be putting too much of a dent in his free agent value.

According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the “sense among interested teams” is that Zobrist’s price is currently hovering around four years, $60 million and it “may go higher.”

There was a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal on Sunday stating that the Mets have made Zobrist their “No. 1” offseason target, and over a dozen other clubs have linked to him since the World Series ended. That’s the kind of attention you command when you can both hit — Zobrist posted an .809 OPS (120 OPS+) in 2015 — and also cover a range of positions defensively.

He makes sense for just about any club looking to contend in the coming seasons.

Wilin Rosario elects to become free agent

Wilin Rosario
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi
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Wilin Rosario was designated for assignment by the Rockies late last month. Now, according to Thomas Harding of MLB.com, the 26-year-old former National League Rookie of the Year vote-getter has elected to become a free agent.

Rosario is a bad defensive catcher and wasn’t much better when the Rockies tried him at first base, but he should draw some interest from American League teams looking for a bench bat and part-time DH.

Rosario slugged 28 home runs for the Rockies in 2012 and he’s averaged 26 home runs for every 162 games over the course of his five-year major league career.

He boasts a .319/.356/.604 career batting line against left-handed pitching.

Orioles acquire Mark Trumbo from Mariners for Steve Clevenger

Mark Trumbo
AP Photo/Joe Nicholson

As first reported by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma Tribune and now confirmed by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Mariners have traded first baseman and corner outfielder Mark Trumbo to the Orioles in exchange for catcher and first baseman Steve Clevenger. There is also a second player headed to Baltimore in the deal.

This feels like an admission from the O’s that they’re not going to be able to re-sign Chris Davis, who is said to be looking for more than $150 million in free agency.

Clevenger was out of options and the Orioles have both Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph coming back at the catcher position. Wieters was due to become a free agent but accepted a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from Baltimore last month.

Trumbo has always been a low-OBP guy and he rates as a poor defender everywhere he has played, but the 29-year-old has averaged 31 homers and 96 RBI for every 162 games in his six-year major league career. Camden Yards is a much better place than Safeco Field for him to show that power.

Cardinals finished runner-up to Red Sox in David Price sweepstakes

David Price
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

These kind of after-the-ink-has-dried reports have to be taken with a grain of salt for a variety of reasons, but they’re fantastic conversation-starters …

Bob Nightengale of USA Today says the Cardinals “finished runner-up” to the Red Sox in the bidding for free agent left-hander David Price, who signed with Boston on Monday for a record seven years and $217 million.

There were reports early on that the Red Sox were going to have to overpay on Price because he wanted to either stay in Toronto or make the move to the more pitcher-friendly National League. And maybe they did go significantly above and beyond the next-best offer to land him.

But the report from Nightengale serves as an indication that the Cardinals are ready and willing to spend big money ahead of next week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville. Does that chunk of change now get directed toward Jason Heyward? Or might the Cardinals pounce one of the falling dominos in this still-loaded starting pitching market? What about both?

St. Louis lost Lance Lynn to Tommy John surgery last month and both Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha carry some injury concerns into 2016. There’s money to spend there with a new billion-dollar local television deal about ready to kick in.