Dylan Hernandez and Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times report that MLB “is in discussions about the possibility of starting its 2014 season in Australia” and Australian promoters are pushing for the Dodgers to be one of the teams.
MLB spokesperson Pat Courtney denied the report, saying: “We are not currently exploring the possibility with the Dodgers or any other team to play in Australia.” And even the report acknowledges that “it appears the negotiations haven’t advanced to the point where specific teams are being included in the talks.”
However, according to the Sydney Morning Herald the Dodgers are being targeted because of Magic Johnson’s involvement and there’s already a report claiming that the Diamondbacks would be their “likely opponents” for a three-game series at Sydney Cricket Ground.
Without commenting specifically on the possibility of playing in Australia Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall issued a statement saying that “if the possibility existed for the D-Backs to play overseas, we would most certainly be interested.”
Time zones and travel would obviously be obstacles, but MLB has regularly played season-opening series in Japan and sending two teams to Australia would seemingly be similar.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.