Andrew Friedman and Co. have not always been on the good side of many Dodger fans. However, they have undoubtedly shown their intellect for the game, and you can’t deny it anymore.
What do you get when you mix great baseball minds and knowledge with endless pockets of money? Well, we are in the process of finding out. I am a big fan of Andrew Freidman, and while it may be an unpopular opinion amongst many Dodgers‘ fans, the front office is starting to look smarter every day.
Friedman was the wunderkind that was able to keep the small-market cash-strapped Tampa Bay Rays competitive and successful in a division with big spenders like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Thus, it was exciting to see what he’d be capable of when given financial leniency.
Ever since Friedman came on board towards the end of 2014, the philosophy and focus of the Los Angeles Dodgers changed. LA became more statistical-oriented and placed more emphasis on depth than star power.
Friedman filled out the front office based off of that. He formed a star front office by signing people that had strong backgrounds with sabermetrics and mirrored CEO and President Stan Kasten’s vision of balancing the present with the future by developing the farm system and building a sustainable pipeline of homegrown talent. They have done an excellent job of the latter via scouting, drafting, and investing in the international market.
Developing the farm system has helped kill another bird, and that is helping lower payroll. Since the start of 2015, the Dodgers’ payroll has decreased every season.
They then moved players such as Matt Kemp and Dee Gordon via trade, and let Hanley Ramirez walk because they wanted to create a better clubhouse atmosphere. Kemp and Ramirez have been known to be clubhouse cancers.
That is why Dave Roberts was brought in as manager and seems to be the perfect hiring for this ballclub. He won 2016 NL Manager of the Year, takes a more modern angle to the game, and has created such an upbeat and healthy atmosphere that was lacking under Don Mattingly.
Now, they have had some mishaps. They are too committed to taking chances on injury-prone but talented players. Examples of this backfiring are the Scott Kazmir and Hector Olivera signings along with the first two seasons of Brandon McCarthy’s Dodger tenure. But, ultimately the positives outweigh the negatives. Plus, every front office makes mistakes, even the great Chicago Cubs (Hello Jason Heyward and Brett Anderson).
Friedman and Co. have managed to keep the Dodgers competitive in the present while building the team up to maintain its success for many years to come. They currently have one of the best farm systems in all of MLB, and it’s been like that for a few years now. One reason as to why is because Friedman and Zaidi have managed to resist blockbuster trades by not trading away top prospects. Unfortunately, this why some fans have grown impatient with them.
The closest thing they have done to a blockbuster trade was making a deal with the Oakland A’s for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick. All they gave away were three mid-tier arms, no one elite. They have managed to hold onto their elite prospects and still improve their team instead of mortgaging the future for aging and expensive veterans.
What really separates this front office and makes them geniuses is being able to see what most people can’t. Alex Wood, Josh Fields, Chris Taylor, and Luis Avilan. These are players which the front office absolutely stole because their former clubs either didn’t utilize them properly or didn’t value them as highly.
At the time fans either didn’t care about these acquisitions or were mad because they weren’t “game-changing” moves.
Well, in ten appearances this season (eight starts) Alex Wood has a 1.69 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and an 11.3 K/9. My colleague Saeed Villanueva pointed out how much of a highway robbery this deal was. Luis Avilan was part of this deal, and he has become a reliable reliever out of the pen.
Josh Fields is a guy the metrics loved, but his raw numbers weren’t good when the Dodgers acquired him last year. All he’s done in his 21.1 innings of relief this season is compile a 0.84 ERA, 0.844 WHIP, and 26 strikeouts, en route to becoming LA’s best reliever after Kenley Jansen. He only required a teenage first base prospect that wasn’t and isn’t highly touted.
Then there’s everyone’s new favorite player, Chris Taylor. All he’s done in 35 games this year is become one of the team’s better hitters, slashing .321/.415/.557 with five home runs, and be a valuable defensive asset. All he cost was 2010 first-round bust, Zach Lee.
Speaking about defensive value, Kike Hernandez and Austin Barnes have been solid additions. Kike can pretty much play everywhere defensively while mashing southpaws and Barnes is a quality backup catcher who can play second and third base too.
Don’t forget Joe Blanton or Andrew Toles either. Blanton was great in his one season and Toles has proven to be a tremendous signing. The front office is also the same group that saw something in Justin Turner to make him the everyday third baseman in 2015 and look how that’s turned out.
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And that Matt Kemp-for-Yasmani Grandal deal? It looks better with each passing day. Grandal has been elite defensively and has assisted in making the Dodgers’ pitching one of the best in the league. At the moment they are. And, when he’s been healthy he’s been raking offensively. He looks to be in the middle of a career season.
They have focused on smaller, less flashy, but shrewd moves to add depth to the organization. Their depth is so ridiculous that the Dodgers were able to withstand an MLB record 28 players to the DL in 2016, including Clayton Kershaw, and still win the NL West and make it to the NLCS.
They made another one of those moves this past offseason, and I have no reason to doubt that this move will help in the long run because it’s a pattern. All in all, the team is better this season than it was last year and a better Dodger team than the other three playoff ones from 2013-2015.
Also, for the people that accuse Andrew Friedman of being too frugal? Well, he shelled out $192 million on JT, Jansen, and Hill this offseason. Mad about Zack Greinke? Well, it’s probably smart not to give a 32-year-old pitcher six-years $206.5 million.
The Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy signings? Yes, Kazmir has been a bust, but McCarthy is finally showing his worth. The beauty of both their contracts is that they come off the books with Adrian Gonzalez’s, Andre Ethier’s, and Yasiel Puig’s after the 2018 season. That is just in time to be able to have the financial flexibility to attack a historic 2018 free agent market headlined by Bryce Harper.
Being able to strategically use their financial might in trades, building a juggernaut in the present while laying the foundation to let it last for years, and putting out the best Dodger team in a long time? Plus the fact that the front office has assembled a top-3 bullpen after years of it being the weakest link? I think they’ve done pretty well.