I think we can all agree that the McCourt divorce could have a devastating effect on the medium-term outlook of the franchise. Especially if the club becomes a ward of the court for any length of time, organizational development could be set back quite a ways. But I think extending the doom and gloom over next season is a little much.
John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle offered his take:
When a guy fires his estranged wife/CEO, as Frank did to Jamie, it speaks volumes about a franchise's stability. The best-case scenario is that the ma-and-pa power struggle doesn't immediately impact the payroll, either Clayton Kershaw or [Chad] Billingsley becomes Tim Lincecum and [Manny] Ramirez's goofiness doesn't wreck the team as it nearly did in Boston.
If that's the case, the Giants could be looking up at the Dodgers for another year. But if the McCourt divorce has an effect anything like the Moores divorce, which crippled the Padres, the Dodgers are in a heap of trouble.
Shea's points, generally, are well-taken. But even if the Dodgers, as Shea predicts, can't play in the Lackey-Figgins sandbox of this year's free agent class, we're not looking at an uncompetitive team. Whether signed to long-term deals or kept through arbitration, the Dodgers aren't losing Billingsley, Martin, Kemp, Loney, Ethier, Kuo, or Broxton. Yes, those guys will get expensive, but the club is not going to be so severely handcuffed it can't bring those guys back, raises in hand.
The Dodgers will also return the core members of the team outside of the arbitration-eligibles. Kershaw, Elbert, Troncoso, McDonald, and Belisario are all cheap. Ramirez, Blake, Kuroda, Furcal, and Pierre are all under contract. Here's what the Dodgers return without dipping into free agency at all:
2B (Hu? DeWitt?)
SP Kershaw (LH)
SP/RP Elbert (LH)
RP Kuo (LH)
RP Sherrill (LH)
I'm not going to go into an extensive offseason plan for the rest of the spots. Mike Scoscia's Tragic Illness took a fine stab at that already. I just want you to look at how good that roster is already. According to the guesses made by Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts, the above core will cost about $98.5 million. It includes some serious firepower, including 10 players worth 2 or more wins last season according to Fangraphs. Kemp (5.1 wins) and Kershaw (4.2) are bonafide stars now, Ethier (2.6)* isn't far behind, and Billingsley (3.1)* is much, much better than you might think.
*How bad is Ethier's defense? Dismal. And on Billingsley, remember he was pretty darned good this year--and he was hurt. He's still a star-in-the-waiting.
What I'm getting at is that even if you can't spend a ton of money filling out the rotation or finding a better second baseman, that's a competitive core as-is. Will the Dodgers be the best team in the National League again without dipping into free agency? Probably not. But will they be strong competitors for October baseball? Absolutely.