How limited are the Dodgers new owners?

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I’m writing this from a hotel room in Los Angeles, where — despite it being just before 5am as I type this — my body thinks it’s still on eastern time. Stupid body.

Anyway, I flew here last night and, being a wise and prudent man, made my way to the hotel bar so that I might come to quickly understand my environment and the people that inhabit it. I found them to be a curious lot, somehow taken with the notion that the Dodgers’ new ownership group — despite not taking actual control for another month — will somehow will this team into immediate contention.

I was about to educate them about just how deluded they are when it comes to such matters — see my Dodgers preview here a little later this morning to get some real talk about this team that should disabuse anyone of such assumptions — but since they were buying my drinks I decided to nod and say “well, maybe.”

But no, it’s not happening. At least not in 2012. And not just because there is no way to practically improve this team at the moment. Rather, because there may be … constraints on this ownership group due to a $ 2 billion price tag.

Magic Johnson has basically pshawed that notion, saying that the Dodgers are going to be the Yankees west. But The Economist thinks differently:

At this price, everything would have to go right for the new owners to make a profit. They are required to make costly capital improvements to Dodger Stadium as part of the deal … And although the deal has been described as a “100% cash offer”, it is doubtful that even Guggenheim has $2 billion of its own capital lying under the mattress and available to buy a baseball team. The far more likely outcome is that the acquisition will have to be financed with a heavy debt load, whose interest payments will probably siphon off much of the franchise’s revenues and limit the owners’ ability to invest in it.

We’ve obviously seen that scenario before. But this time they’re claiming that things will be different. Will the new owners damn the torpedoes, and order full speed ahead on free agent acquisitions, or will they worry about that cash flow and skew conservative?

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.