A week after the abrupt end to their hugely disappointing postseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers radically changed its old-school culture in tapping Andrew Friedman to take over as president of baseball operations.
Friedman, who as the GM of the Tampa Bay Rays completely revamped the struggling franchise, is expected to slash a bloated Dodger payroll by trading away underperforming stars, and rebuild an aging bullpen, which many blame for the Dodgers early playoff exit.
Prior to the 2014 season, many predicted the Dodgers would win the World Series. Los Angeles initially lived up to the hype, finishing with the second best record in the National League at 94-68, just two games behind the Washington Nationals. But when the St. Louis Cardinals quickly knocked the Dodgers out of the National League Divisional Series, Friedman got the call.
The 37-year-old former investment banker took over the Devil Rays after the 2005 season (the team dropped the “Devil” from their name in 2008), and has built them into perennial contenders. During his nine year tenure, Friedman led the Rays to their first winning season, their first playoff appearance, first division title and first American League pennant, and that was just 2008.
The Rays had six consecutive winning seasons from 2008 until 2013, winning another division title in 2010 and making the playoffs three other times, with a payroll ranging from just over $40 million to just under $75 million, a miraculous accomplishment, considering the two payroll giants of Boston and the New York Yankees, each with payrolls two or sometimes three times that of the Rays.
Dodger fans can expect to see some unique players in the lineup. Friedman is a huge advocate of advanced statistics, using them to help find undervalued players. Players such as catcher Dioner Navarro, first baseman Carlos Peña, reliever Troy Percival, and outfielder Cliff Floyd were each signed off the scrap heap by Friedman, making significant contributions to the Rays during his tenure.
Navarro and Peña were both selected to their first, and only, All-Star Games, Percival was an anchor for the Rays bullpen during the 2008 season tallying 28 saves, and Floyd provided a lefty power bat off the bench, hitting .270 in 80 games, during the same run.
LA Dodgers roster
Players such as third baseman Evan Longoria, pitchers David Price, James Shields and Matt Moore, outfielder Desmond Jennings, pitchers Chris Archer and Jeremy Hellickson, and outfielder Wil Myers have each come up through Tampa’s farm system under Friedman’s watch and made significant contributions.
Longoria was the 2008 American League Rookie of the Year, and has been in the top 10 AL MVP voting three times. Price won the 2012 AL Cy Young and finished second in 2010. Helickson was named the 2011 Rookie of the Year, and Wil Myers (acquired in a trade with Kansas City for James Shields) was named the 2013 Rookie of the Year. Aside from Shields and Price, each of these players is still with the team and will be for years to come.
Ned Colletti is the man Friedman replaces. Colletti took over as Dodgers GM after the 2005 season; just days after Friedman took over the then Devil Rays. Colletti dealt with many headaches thanks to former owner Frank McCourt. McCourt bought the Dodgers in 2004, and thanks to financial mismanagement, ran the team into the ground. Colletti did lead the Dodgers to five playoff appearances during his tenure, but has been criticized for spending big bucks. On this current team, there are 10 players, all 30 or older, who make $10+ million or more in 2014. Some of these players will move on either through free agency, or retirement. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez, making $16 million, and reliever Brian Wilson, earning $10 million, will be among the first to go and pitcher Josh Beckett, who made $17 million, has already announced his retirement.
Dodgers young talent
Despite the heavy load of big contracts, the Dodgers are not devoid of young talent. Friedman inherits the likely NL MVP winner in pitcher Clayton Kershaw who is only 26 and signed through 2020, 23-year-old Cuban phenom, outfielder Yasiel Puig, to go along with top prospects outfielder Joc Pederson, third baseman Corey Seager, and lefty pitcher Julio Urias. Given Friedman’s history of nurturing his farm system this can only improve.
Friedman is now able to work with very little financial restraints and should make good use of the resources the Dodgers have to build a legitimate, long lasting championship contender.