As the calendar flipped over to June last season, the Dodgers faced what seemed like an easy decision.
Six and a half months earlier, they had signed All-Star center fielder Matt Kemp to a $160 million contract extension, ensuring that their franchise player wouldn't test free agency at the end of the following season, and locking him up through 2019. Now, Andre Ethier stood four months from free agency himself. The two Dodgers outfielders had reached the majors together in 2006. They were the two best hitters on the roster, and Ethier looked on his way to a monster breakout season, hitting .324/.381/.569 through the first two months of the season. Just before Opening Day, Guggenheim Partners had given Frank McCourt the billions of dollars he so deserved for looting his own team for years. The new owners' pockets were bottomless, their commitment to winning resolute. Facing the choice of losing their slugging right fielder to free agency or getting his name on a long-term contract, the Dodgers did what you'd expect from a team with no spending limits: They shot the moon, handing Ethier $85 million to secure his rights through 2017 — or 2018 if they exercised their $17.5 million club option.