Make no mistake…this IS Andrew Friedman’s team. This is not to take anything away from the immense talents of Farhan Zaidi, Josh Byrnes, Alex Anthopoulos, Gabe Kapler, or Billy Gasparino. They help put Friedman’s vision into motion. The Dodgers caught a lot of flak from fans because of the high FO cost. But these are all outstanding baseball people, and why is it a problem having superior FO talent? It doesn’t distract from the player budget, so why should anyone care what the cost is. Just another reason to bitch about Andrew Friedman because they do not agree with how Friedman builds a team.
But the funny thing is, Friedman has done this before. He had a vision as to how to build a TEAM, not of individuals, but as a cohesive unit with young talent and cagey vets. In 2006 when he took over the GM reins of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays from Chuck LaMar (sorry but they were the Devil Rays in 2006), the first thing he did was to hire HIS manager…Joe Maddon. He hired a manger who could put into practice what Friedman envisioned. Contrary to the Friedman bashers, he did not dictate what the lineups should be. Did he discuss trends with Maddon? Absolutely. Why is that a problem? But if you watch how he manages the Cubs, it really is not all that different than how he managed the Rays. Different batting lineups/different lead-off guys/a lot of platoons/multiple positions (check to see the number of positions Kris Bryant played last year, or Zobrist, or Baez). Maddon loves multiple options. Did Friedman dictate to Joe what he should do, or did Friedman hire a manager who believes as he does? Theo and Jed are anything but micro-managers. He was not allowed to do the same thing with the Dodgers in 2015, so he waited a year, and signed a Joe Maddon like clone in Doc Roberts; someone who believes in how Friedman builds a team.
Friedman inherited a 67-95 team and promptly followed that 2005 season with a 61-101 (2006), and 66-96 (2007) season. Not much difference, but much had been done to change the direction, so that the 2008 team had a 97-65 record, won the AL pennant, and was in the WS. The Dodgers record in 2014 was 94-68 with a 1st place finish in the NL West. Friedman’s first year in 2015, the team was 92-70 and winners of the NL West again. In 2016, same NL West finish but with a 91-71 record. Again, not much of a difference in the record, but so much was done to help change the direction, including the rebuilding of a depleted farm system. The minors had stars (Pederson/Seager/Bellinger/Urias/JDL), but the overall organizational farm system was depleted. They did not get to the WS, but they were certainly in a position to. No matter how you slice it, Friedman’s moves got the Dodgers to NLCS Game 6 with the best pitcher on the planet going for the good guys, and Kershaw just did not close it out. This is Friedman’s fault? His job was to get the players to get to that point, and then it was up to the players to bring it home.
So how did he go about building this 2008 WS team? On 01-14-06, Friedman completed a trade with the Dodgers that brought Edwin Jackson to the Rays for Danys Baez and Lance Carter. I guess he was getting the better in trades even back then. In June 2006, he acquired JP Howell from the Royals for Fernando Cortez and Joey Gathright. Something about building a bullpen? Also in June, Friedman completed another trade with the Dodgers, acquiring Dionner Navarro, Jae Weong Seo, and Justin Ruggiano for Toby Hall and Mark Hendrickson. In the WS year of 2008, Navarro delivered a solid slash line of .295/.349/.407/.757 and played a solid catcher. In July 2006, he acquired Ben Zobrist & Mitch Talbot from the Astros for Aubrey Huff. He acquired Ben Zobrist before he was Ben Zobrist. He loves multi-dimensional players. Justin Ruggiano later went on to become the key player in perhaps the very first player shift. In the 2008 WS, Joe Maddon moved Ruggiano from RF to right behind 2nd base to become a 5th infielder. I am sure that Friedman did not tell Maddon to do this, but I am just as sure that it was discussed, and like other situations, Maddon and Friedman probably saw eye to eye with it.
He continued to make changes in 2007. He signed veteran slugger Carlos Pena who spent most of 2006 in the minor leagues. He did finish the year with the Red Sox, but was not re-signed by them. Instead, Friedman took a chance on him and Pena proceeded to hit .282/.411/.627/1.037, with 46 HR and 121 RBI and won Comeback Player of the Year. He also won the Silver Slugger award and placed 9th in the MVP vote. Pena followed up a great 2007 with a 2008 season fashioning a slash line of .247/.377/.494/.871 with 31 HRs and 102 RBI’s. Friedman needed a SS, so the Cincinnati Reds SOLD Brendan Harris to the Rays on 01-02-2007. Harris went on to bat a very credible .286/.343/.434/.777 with 12 HRs and 59 RBI’s. On 12/15/06, Friedman went international and signed Akinori Iwamura for three years. Iwamura went on to have a solid three years for Tampa Bay, and was very much a cohesive component to the 2008 WS team. Mid year 2007 deals included a Grant Balfour trade from the Brewers for Seth McClung, and Dan Wheeler from the Astros for Ty Wigginton. Two very key bullpen pieces. Balfour re-signed for 2008 and both relievers were instrumental with the 2008 WS team. Balfour had a solid 1.54 ERA in 58.1 innings (51 games) with 4 saves, while Wheeler compiled 13 saves in 66.1 innings (70 games) and a 3.12 ERA.
Now it was time for the finishing touches for 2008. These were a little more bold and included some big names but not for overpays. It also included moves that finished up a rebuilt bullpen. On 11/30/07 Friedman acquired Troy Percival who went on to record 28 saves in 2008. On 2/6/08 he signed Trever Miller to a one year deal. He may have been more Chris Hatcher like, but he appeared in 68 games and served a role. J.P. Howell went on to pitch in 64 games including 89.1 innings with a solid 2.22 ERA. On 12/14/07, Friedman signed veteran slugger Cliff Floyd (35) to a one year contract. Floyd proceeded to hit .268/.349/.455/.804 with 11 HRs. On February 6, 2008 the veteran signings continued with Eric Hinske, who batted .247/.333/.445/.798 and 20 HRs. On 4/22/08, Friedman put some finishing touches on his OF with a trade with the Brewers for Gabe Gross for Josh Butler. But all of these moves were preceded by what may have been the most important cog(s), and perhaps the biggest trade with the most scrutiny. On 11/28/07, Friedman orchestrated a trade with the Twins acquiring SS Jason Bartlett and pitchers Matt Garza & Eduardo Morlan. Bartlett anchored that infield that later included 2006 1st round draft choice (Friedman’s 1st), Evan Longoria. 2008 was Matt Garza’s first full year as a starter. He started 30 games, including 184.2 innings and a 3.70ERA. Who did Friedman trade? 2004 1st overall draft choice Delmon Young; 2002 2nd round pick (43rd overall) OF Jason Pridie; and the 2007 SS Brendan Harris. Was Garza the solid mid-rotation guy, and was Bartlett the glue that molded it all together? They got to the WS. Some thought of it as an overpay at the time, but it sure worked out in 2008.
Is he building the 2017 Dodgers to be that WS team after his 3rd year again? The 2017 Dodgers seem to be built in the same fashion. A few bold moves but necessary because of the financial constraints (Kemp) and lack of quality positions at the ML level (catcher – Grandal); some questionable pitching signings (questionable to some) that allowed the team to stay away from the $90M to $217M pitchers, but allowed the team to compete allowing the farm to continue to develop so that they would be in a position to bring depth to the ML team; veteran signings and trades (Rollins/Utley), allowing Seager to continue to develop and then be mentored by two near HOF middle infielders; and of course the need for players to fill roles at or near the ML level (Kike’/Hatcher/Barnes/Kendrick) for a player deemed replaceable (Gordon). Finding the unheralded gems (Wood/Taylor/Toles/Dayton/Liberatore/Fields/Morrow/Avilan). Not all of the moves proved to be good, but none really hurt the team, and most served a purpose. Okay Mat Latos was a brain freeze. Now the WS is really in sight, and we shall see what the next two weeks bring. But whatever moves are made or are not made, it will be because of Andrew Friedman’s vision and knowledge of the players and their abilities to play and to be a part of a TEAM. Farhan Zaidi is a more than capable GM who understands and can manage Friedman’s vision. Will the Dodgers get to the WS? They have to play the games. But I do believe that Friedman will put the Dodgers in a position to succeed, and then it will be up to the players. Yes, this is Andrew Friedman’s team, and I am one Dodger fan that appreciates what Andrew Friedman has done for my DODGERS.