NL West rivals San Francisco and Los Angeles have had two very different winters after coming off of two very different seasons.
While Los Angeles collapsed after adding big-name superstar after big-superstar before the trade deadline in 2012, San Francisco soared to the top of the NL West, carried by the addition of a veteran infielder.
Marco Scutaro? Exactly the spark plug the Giants were looking for.
The new Dodgers' ownership has demonstrated a want to continue their philosophy of big-spending this winter, inking pitcher Zack Greinke to a six-year, $147 million contract. That's right, $147 million for their No. 2 pitcher. All signs indicate staff ace Clayton Kershaw will remain (rightfully) the Dodgers' No. 1 guy on the mound.
Add to that the contracts for shortstop Hanley Ramirez (six years, $70 million), outfielder Carl Crawford (seven years, $142 million), first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (seven years, $154 million) and pitcher Josh Beckett (four years, $68 million).
Add to that lucrative contracts with Los Angeles mainstays Clayton Kershaw and outfielders Andre Either and Matt Kemp.
I can list numbers all day. The Dodgers are basically attempting to buy a World Series ring. (See: New York Yankees).
San Francisco operates differently. While the Dodgers appeared to have made the blockbuster deal of 2012 (Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett from the Red Sox), the real "blockbuster" came out of the City by the Bay. Second baseman Marco Scutaro went on an absolute tear to help lead the Giants to an NL West title, NL Pennant and eventual World Series Championship.
Scutaro's new contract? Three years, $20 million. As a point of comparison, Carl Crawford will make roughly $20 million per year through 2017.
The only Dodgers' equivalent contract the Giants' currently have on the books belongs to pitcher Barry Zito, who is in the final year of a $126 million deal. GM Brian Sabean tried the classic New York Yankees philosophy of throwing money on big names once. It didn't work.
Sabean's style is one of finesse, not flash. The Giants have quietly had a successful winter thus far, re-signing key free agents Marco Scutaro and OF Angel Pagan (four years, $40 million). Outfielder Hunter Pence is returning to San Francisco, and the only player currently in question is relief pitcher Brian Wilson.
By re-signing Pagan, the Giants passed on opportunities to sign bigger name stars such as B.J. Upton. While the Giants could use another outfielder, don't expect them to break the bank by signing Josh Hamilton or even Nick Swisher. While the they have expressed interest, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports:
"The Giants could pursue Swisher if they decide to spend on the left fielder after committing combined a $78 million to retain pitcher Jeremy Affeldt, outfielder Angel Pagan and second baseman Marco Scutaro...However, the Giants more likely to go with Gregor Blanco and a platoon partner in left."
Last season, the San Francisco philosophy brought the team a world championship. Roughly the entire team remains in 2013.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles fell apart in the second half of the 2012 season. The team never gelled or found their rhythm, despite strong performances from Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez. The Dodgers watched as the Giants celebrated their second championship in three years—a bitter pill to swallow.
The Dodgers are a clubhouse of individuals. The Giants are a team.
On paper, the Dodgers are sure to be the favorite to win the NL West in 2013. But this situation is eerily similar to the 2010 National League Championship Series between the Giants and Philadelphia Phillies. With the right chemistry and just a little bit of magic, the Giants were able to defeat the heavily favored Phillies, who at the time boasted superstars Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay...the list goes on.
The Andrew Baggarly-named "Band of Misfits" came out victorious against their Goliath-esque opponent. In 2013, the Giants have gotten considerably better without sacrificing the qualities that made them great in 2010.
Still, the Yankees philosophy rendered the team 27 World Series titles. The Dodgers have effectively adopted the same philosophy, and next season will tell whether their payments end up actually paying off.
My prediction? The Dodgers are in for some serious buyer's remorse in 2013.