The Dodgers' fantastic lineup and decent staff are starting to get very expensive.
The Dodgers payroll currently sits at $110M, and it might have to go higher.
Their current commitments for next year are at $64M. Kemp, Loney, Billingsley, and Kuo all hit arbitration for the first time this offseason. I'm betting Kemp and Billingsley get at least $15M combined (which is conservative; it's a lot less than half their $41.7M value), bringing the payroll to $85M. Let's say Loney gets $5M (slightly under his $6.2M value), and Kuo gets $1M given he's only thrown 30 innings in relief this year. Now we're up to $86M.
Martin, Ethier, and Broxton are going to hit arb for the second time, and they're making $3.9M, $3.1M, and $1.8M respectively. Staying conservative, we'll say that Martin doesn't deserve a raise with the way he played this year, so let's keep him at $4M despite his $9.6M value. Ethier, however, has $11.8M of value and led the team in HR and RBIZZZ, so let's give him $6M. Broxton's also getting a raise from the fairly low $1.8M he earned this year; how about $4M for the All-Star closer? We're sitting at $96M right now in that case.
Sherrill's hitting arb for the third time, and coming off a $2.75M contract. He's worth more than $3M, but we'll give him that anyway. $99M at this point.
Let's add the buyout: Will Ohman for $0.2M ($2.2M option also not happening), but that's negligible so we can ignore it.
Assuming the payroll sits at $110M, the Bums have $11M to play with. Resigning Randy Wolf is going to be a challenge after the year he had; let's say they get it done for a slight raise to $6M (likely on a multi-year deal). That gives us a rotation of Billingsley, Kershaw, Wolf, and Kuroda. Gotta find a #5 starter on the cheap, or bring someone up from the farm, because they can't/won't exercise Padilla's $12M option or Garland's $10M option. And they're going to need a 2B (Hudson and Belisario both FA's), a backup C (Ausmus a FA), some utility players (Loretta and Mientkiewicz both FA's), and a bullpen arm or two (Mota is a FA). And you gotta wonder if $3M is going to be enough to find all that (it won't). Let's say they raise the payroll to $120M, which would be the highest payroll in Dodgers history. Is $15M enough for a #5 starter, a 2B, two utility IFs, a backup C, and a bullpen arm? Probably. But that also means they have zero flexibility next year after another round of arb raises for the core, and they can't realistically add payroll for midseason acquisitions.
So they'll obviously compete in 2010, even with question marks for half their rotation and most of their 'pen, because that lineup is so badass. But as Kemp, Loney, Martin, Ethier, Kershaw, Broxton, and Billingsley get more expensive, and the very weak Dodgers' farm system can't replace them, I see an era of failure in Los Angeles approaching. And you've got to wonder what happens if Kemp or Ethier goes does with an injury; can the Bums replace that player with anyone decent (Pierre? Really? Yeah, he's totally going to repeat what he did this year)? And how will that affect them against the suddenly decent Giants and Rockies?
*Side note: I don't understand why everyone in La-La Land loves Colletti so much. He's had a plethora of bad FA signings, the Dodgers farm system is crap, their rotation is crap, and their good offensive players are about to get expensive. He's Brian Sabean with a little extra payroll flexibility (which makes sense given Colletti's pedigree before he came to the Dodgers). Given their payroll is already at $110M for the season, I don't see how much they can realistically add, and they're going to need to add or get rid of some of their stars.