Dodgers: Time to Change the Strategy and get Aggressive

Andrew Friedman, (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
Andrew Friedman, (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images) /

The Dodgers are still quiet. Bryce Harper, Corey Kluber and more players are low hanging fruit on the tree of baseball and the Dodgers are yet to start picking from it. Is it because the costs of the players, either in prospects or money, are too high? Possibly. But, regardless, no progress has been made lately on any front.

This has felt like the mantra for the last few offseasons: trade away the bad contracts and stay reluctant, very reluctant, on the free agent market. As Andrew Friedman, the now stand-alone general manager of the Dodgers once said: “the track record is just not so good.” He was, of course, talking only about signing free agent relievers but lately, that ideology has rung truer in a broader sense than the GM originally intended.

The Dodgers operate under that same caution when it comes to free agents in general and can even be stretched to the trade market. Pretend the team is a car driving in a 45 mile per hour zone. Some teams, or cars for this example, fly well over the speed limit. It works sometimes but the risky behavior or, in our analogy, free will spending and trading could eventually catch up to that team and result in a speeding ticket or worse, a crash.

Then there are the teams that abide by the rules. They spend on free agents, make the necessary changes to the roster and do nothing that either too cautiously or too dangerously. They can’t get hurt.

Then there is the Dodgers. If 45 miles per hour is the speed limit they often operate at 35. Slower than the market or the other cars and, often, too slow to make the moves that, although they may be a risk, could propel the team from runner-up to World Series Champion.

And I’m not here to question Friedman’s reluctance to sign a player to a ten-year deal worth double the team’s payroll nor am I in any position to knock Friedman for harboring his top prospects as opposed to trading them. Rather, what I do want to do, is question the strategy. Perhaps not to the extremes of signing Harper or trading for Kluber but questioning the principals of the current front office in the sense that this ultimate level of caution should see some change.

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Let’s start with the financial aspect of this debacle. The Dodgers want to remain under the luxury tax threshold all while remaining World Series contenders as well as improve the roster from 2017 and 2018 as the results of those seasons were need I remind you, less than desirable.

Friedman’s goal is essentially to spend without penalty and the result, at least to this point, has been a Joe Kelly signing and the trading of Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer. But nothing has followed.

The Dodgers are facing an uphill battle to sign Harper and even players like Corey Kluber pose a threat to the financial stability of the 2019 roster.

The issue, however, is the Dodgers could (obviously) really use a guy like Kluber on the team. In 2018, Corey Kluber found himself in the top 7 percent of pitchers who threw at least 120 innings in terms of ERA+. He was a force to be reckoned with but trading for him adds a considerable amount of money to the payroll and, that hypothetical trade segways us into Andrew Friedman’s second reluctance: trading prospects.

This is hard to pick on. There is nothing more satisfying than a homegrown player making to the Bigs and helping the team. Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager and many more are living proof of that. But there needs to come a strategic point where prospect hoarding does not work.

Hanging onto pitchers in a pitching-heavy organization does not benefit the player or the organization and a trade works best for everyone. By spending prospects, the Dodgers could have Corey Kluber and JT Realmuto this offseason, two players in the top 15 percent of pitchers and batter respectively.

Let’s tie this back to the original point: Andrew Friedman needs to rethink his strategy. Instead of being reluctant and hoping the roster pans out for another year, there has to be some benefit in going and making the changes you need to make to get the roster to the promise land. After two years of reserved salary acquisition, the Dodgers roster is cheap enough that the team should be going all out for a trophy.

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This article is not science nor has there been numbers and stats to back up my point. However, I can offer this: the Dodgers are one of the best teams in the Major Leagues. They led the league in almost every batting statistic in 2018 and made it to their second straight World Series. But, in two appearances they are 0-2 and something needs to change to but a win in the wins column. That change is in the offseason strategy and that change is to find some more aggression and make changes to the roster.