Andrew Friedman and Co. have been in charge for a little over two years now and there is no doubt that they have divided many opinions amongst Los Angeles Dodgers fans and others. Even though they have not brought home a World Series (yet), his regime has been successful thus far.
When the Los Angeles Dodgers and Andrew Friedman finalized their five-year $35 million agreement back in October of 2014 to become the franchise’s President of Baseball Operations, the expectations for the franchise were sky-high. That is what happens when you give a baseball wunderkind endless pockets of money. He kept the cash-strapped Tampa Bay Rays competitive in an ultra-competitive AL East, a division that included giant markets such as New York and Boston. Under his tutelage, the Rays made the playoffs four times with a World Series Appearance. It was only a matter of time before a bigger team came knocking.
When he was signed, it was a dangerous pairing for the rest of the MLB to deal with, and even though a World Series hasn’t been won, it still is a dangerous pairing. He was going to combine New Age and advanced sabermetrics with limitless money. That was an exciting proposition: “Brains + Money”. He has gone on to build a front-office full of sabermetric “superstars”, headlined by General Manager Farhan Zaidi (Billy Beane’s partner in crime in Oakland) and former GMs Alex Anthopoulos and Josh Byrnes.
Even though they haven’t been to a World Series, let alone win one, the regime has gotten off to a success. First off, it’s only been two years. Second, they’ve won their division both seasons while making it to the NLCS in 2016. All teams, outside of the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, and Kansas City Royals would love to have been in the Dodgers’ shoes during the past two seasons.
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However, many fans and others alike, will still look to criticize the front office and be overly critical of their future moves. All teams in the MLB are either rebuilding, legitimately contending for a championship, or stuck right in the middle (and most likely leaning towards a rebuild). The Dodgers may be the only team that is doing a bit of both of the first two.
They are legitimate contenders but are also planning for the future. They have to balance staying competitive in the future while also looking to the future. That is one of the hardest things to do in the sport, and in my opinion they have done a great job so far.
They inherited a team full of aging stars and big-money contracts. Their biggest moves to start, were to trade away Matt Kemp, Dee Gordon, and let Hanley Ramirez walk in free agency. That drew the ire of many fans, and rightfully so. Those three were three fan favorites and vital pieces of the team. Because of this first impression, most fans failed to give the Los Angeles Dodgers front office from thereon out.
The Dodgers sold high on Dee Gordon and eventually turned him into Howie Kendrick. Gordon went on to win the Batting Title in 2015, however, he was suspended for PEDs so it is hard to understand how legitimate it is. They also turned an aging locker-room cancer (Matt Kemp) into a young catcher with power on offense and good defensively with elite pitch-framing ability (Yasmani Grandal). They also let an aging, injury-prone locker-room cancer with huge defensive deficiencies (Hanley Ramirez) walk for big money.
Admittedly so, there has been some definite busts as well. Hector Oliviera, Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir are the three biggest ones. Brett Anderson was a bust last season but in 2015 was a good back-arm in the rotation. So yes, they have made some bad signings, but everyone does. The Chicago Cubs spent $186 million on Jason Heyward, a player who has struggled to hit in recent years. The truth is that the more money you have, the more forgivable deals such as these are.
In the case of Oliviera, the Los Angeles Dodgers traded him away in 2015 (month after signing him) in a three-team trade which ultimately got them Alex Wood, Jim Johnson, and Mat Latos. Mat Latos started off solid but eventually flopped, as did Johnson. However, they did not cost much so their struggles were not a waste.
The key piece in the deal was young Alex Wood, and whoever knew baseball, knew that that was a huge get. Wood was a young and promising arm who had success in the majors with the Atlanta Braves. He showed flashes of dominance with the Los Angeles Dodgers before ultimately missing majority of 2016. He is still only 26 with tons of promise to offer, so the jury is still out on him.
Now let’s take a look at some more positives. People love to criticize the fact that the team hasn’t made any big splashes in trades of free agency, and why? I am not sure. They criticized the Los Angeles Dodgers for not giving Zack Greinke an extra (sixth) year to retain him in free agency. Then they questioned the signing of Japanese import Kenta Maeda for big money while failing to realize that the contract was heavily incentive-laden. Well look how those two deals have turned out so far. Greinke struggled mightily and is turning 34 this year, while Maeda had a mostly smooth transition to the MLB and outplayed Greinke as a much cheaper alternative.
This front office emphasizes depth and position versatility, yet not many people like to give them credit for providing a roster that was able to win the NL West while dealing with an MLB record 28 players sent to the DL. Oh and they also singed a rookie manager who won the 2016 Manager of the Year.
Now this past offseason, the “frugal” front-office had a rather successful offseason. They poneyed up to retain Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, and Rich Hill to stay competitive, and rightfully so. When healthy, all three are the top players at their position and are on relatively “cheap” or “average” contracts when looking at the increasing deals that are being given out on the open-market today. If they had not resigned them, then the backlash the Los Angeles Dodgers would have received, would have been epic. Along with these three deals, they traded for a much-needed right-handed second baseman and got a quality one in the form of Logan Forsythe.
Los Angeles Dodgers
It’s no secret that the Los Angeles Dodgers have one of the best farm systems in the league so the popular criticism with this front office has been being frugal with their prospects. In 2015, there was a chance to trade for Cole Hamels or David Price, and them to make a trio of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hamels/Price. It would have been a magnificent trio at the time but the price would have been too much. The return package would have had to start with Corey Seager and Julio Urias. Because of this, many were frustrated with Friedman, but they did not understand that the team was also looking forward to the future.
Holding onto those two, along with the other prospects has turned out to be a great decision. Price signed a $217 million contract and was a flop and Hamels slowed down towards the end of the season. Plus they’re both old. Urias and Seager became vital parts of the team, with Seager establishing him has a legit MVP candidate at the ripe age of 22 and Urias showed why he is a future ace. Where are the haters now? Even the trade of top pitching prospect Jose De Leon cannot be frowned at because the Dodgers were dealing from a position of strength. They have tons of pitching prospects, and two in particular (Walker Buehler and Yadier Alvarez) who they view as better prospects.
Speaking of De Leon, he was the centerpiece of the offer for the Minnesota Twins’ Brian Dozier. However, the Twins wanted way too much, and it was great to see the front office not panic and give in. The marginal decrease from Dozier to Forsythe was not worth the extra prospects.
Now the best part about this front office is how the future looks. I am always looking towards to future….always in sports, and boy oh boy does it look bright as ever for Los Angeles. They have a top farm system, young established MLB players, and tons of money. Combined with the fact that the 2018 free agent market has a chance to be historical, and the Dodgers are sitting pretty. The Los Angeles Dodgers have tons of money coming off the books after 2018 which coincides with the likes of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper becoming free agents.
By this time, the aging big contracts will come off the books and the team will be young, athletic, and (both baseball and financially) flexible. The team will be filled with rising stars such as Joc Pederson, Julio Urias, Corey Seager joined by top prospects Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo, Willie Calhoun, Walker Buehler, Yadier Alvarez, possibly Gavin Lux in a few years, etc.
The front office has no doubt made blunders, but positives have outweighed the negatives. Two playoff berths in two season and staying a contender while also keeping the future bright? Yea, the front office has actually done a pretty good job to say the least.