I was going to discus the State of the Pitching, but now I am going to wait until next week when we have a better idea what is happening with one Clayton Kershaw. That can change everything. Also, what follows is something that I think needs to be discussed.
As most of you know, the Dodgers won the World Series in 1988 as heavy underdogs, and then did not again even sniff the World Series until 29 years later. I think some fans believe that Andrew Friedman was hired as the President of Baseball Operations for the Dodgers in 1989 and this World Series drought has all been his fault, However, he was actually hired in the Winter of 2014, and 2015 was his first season. Before his first season, through free agency or trades, the Dodgers parted ways with shortstop Hanley Ramírez, outfielder Matt Kemp, second baseman Dee Gordon, and pitchers Brian Wilson and Dan Haren. However, they bolstered their farm system and added key players such as catcher Yasmani Grandal, infielders Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins, as well as pitchers Brett Anderson and Mike Bolsinger.
Friedman helped lead the Dodgers to their third straight National League West division title in 2015, but the team fell to the New York Mets in the National League Division Series (NLDS), 3–2. After the 2015 season, MLB penalized the Dodgers with a record $43 million luxury tax after determining their payroll was nearly $300 million, also an all-time record. For the record, Friedman inherited most of that payroll.
In 2016, Friedman cut the payroll to less than $250 million and the Dodgers advanced to the NLCS. In 2017, Friedman again cut payroll to $241 million and took the team to the World Series, where they lost in 7 games to the Astros. Finally, this past season, Andrew Friedman was able to get under the Luxury Tax as was mandated by team ownership and he still saw the team get to the World Series.. and lose to a better team. The team payroll in 2018 was reduced to $187 million. That resets the luxury tax penalty. So, just to be clear,Friedman cut the payroll of the Dodgers from almost $300 million to $187 million while delivering the best record in baseball during his tenure and taking the team to two consecutative World Series! But not only is that not enough for some fans… they believe he should be fired!
While all of this was going on, Friedman rebuilt the front office with a plethora of old-school baseball guys, hired a team of statisticians, re-assembled a minor league training staff and built the struggling and emancipated Farm System into one of the top systems in baseball. He didn’t do it like the Cubs or the Astros by tanking for several years and hoarding draft picks. He built the team while winning the NL West every year and going to the playoffs and World Series. And… yes, they lost two straight World Series! So Friedman should be fired? Are you crazy?
The Dodger organization is the best it has been in 30 years! THIRY FREAKING YEARS!Now, I was on record that when FAZ was hired, I thought they should have “blown up” the team… traded away everyone they could and stockpile draft picks, but Stan Kasten told Friedman that he had to rebuild while remaining competative. What Friedman was asked to do was like boxing with one hand behind his back. But he did it. He built a damn good team and a damn good farm system… the only problem was that he built the second best team two years in a row.
Some of you want the Dodgers to fire him and hire a “baseball guy”. Ned Colletti is a “baseball guy” and he is available. Thanks, but I’ll pass. As I said yesterday, Andrew Freidman is not perfect, but he’s pretty dang good! Here’s a quote from a Dodger fan:
FAZ is very weak in FA and trades for players. We should not expect them to trade for any major talent like Realmuto because that is not how they usually work. They are cheapskates and dumpster divers. They are a very imbalanced FO when it comes to procuring talent that is not walking wounded or used goods. Sure, every dog has its day and sometimes they get a little lucky, but their MO is cheap and cheerful.
It’s not just one person who believes that… lots of people say the same thing, but when FAZ took over the team they had the highest salary in baseball… by far… and a bunch of bad contracts from THE TRADE. FAZ had no money to spend. They had to get creative… and they did. Yeah, they signed Brett Anderson, Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir, but they also refused to trade Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Julio Urias and Joc Pederson and they acquired Chris Taylor and Max Muncy for a bag of balls. They also acquired Andrew Toles, Austin Barnes, Yasmani Grandal, Kenta Maeda, Scott Alexader, Alex Wood and re-signed Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner.
This is not the ending they envisioned, but they were limited in what they could do. It’s easy for us to say who they should have traded for, but we really have no clue what other teams demanded. Would they rather have traded for Zach Britton than Ryan Madson? Duuuuhhhh! But, what did the O’s want for him? We don’t know. What we do know is that FAZ did trade for the TOP PLAYER at the deadline (Manny Machado) and as Watford Dodger (Our UK Connection) explained, the Dodgers would not have made it to the World Series without him, even though he may have underperformed in many fans eyes.
Let’s get one thing straight: FAZ did not lose the World Series. FAZ got them there. I wish the Dodgers had won the World Series in 2017 ands 2018… but they didn’t. The fact that they got there tells you they had a chance only 3 teams in all of baseball had. The Red Sox were a VERY, VERY good team who had several players step up in the playoffs BIG TIME. Players like Steve Pearce (platoon player), Joe Kelly (4.39 regular Season ERA – 0.00 in World Series), Nate Eovaldi and David Price were unconscious. The Dodgers pitching and hitting collapsed during the Series. Is that FAZ’s fault? Remember they were playing a better team that was favored to win.
How were the Red Sox built? A lot of home-grown players and few trades and free agents. While the Yankees got all the ink for trading for Giancarlo Stanton and his $300 million contract, the Red Sox signed JD Martinez for about a third of that. Martinez may very well be the best bargain in baseball.Signing players to stupid big contrcats is not the path to winning. Allegedly, the Red Sox were ready to walk if Martinez did not sign the $110 million deal. That deal worked out pretty good. The David Price and Rick Porcello deals looked bad at times for a year or two, but the stars aligned for the 2018 World Series. I’m betting that the Dodgers future is brighter than that of the Red Sox.
FAZ Should Have Built a Better Bullpen
Yes, I agree. However, relievers are a fickle bunch. Joe Kelly was Scott Alexander during the regular season… actually he was worse than Alexander, but in the World Series he was Superman. Who knows… Alexander may be unhittable next year. That’s the nature of relief pitchers. I know this: If you throw out a relief pitcher after a bad season, you likely will regret it later. 2018 was the year the Dodgers had to get under the Luxury Tax. If I have to explain why, then you aren’t going to get it anyway!
Assuming that the Dodgers will not sign a player to an extended long-term contract, is based upon past practices that are no longer valid:
- The Dodgers got out from under the Luxury Tax;
- The Luxury Tax Threshold goes up to $206 million this year;
- The Dodgers have gotten rid of the bad contracts, except for Kemp (and this is his last year); and
- There are players on the market who will get some big $$$$ deals, but they are 26 or 27 years old – that’s a big difference from signing a 32 or 33 year-old to a long term deal!
Instead of bitching about FAZ, you should thank your lucky stars that they are running your favorite team.Past performance was based upon a unique set of circumstances that no longer exist. The financial constraints are gone, the bad contracts are gone and this is a new paradigm. Many of you think thew Dodgers will not sign Manny Machado or Bryce Harper and you probably are one of the fans who do not believe they would trade for Manny Machado either.
I have no idea how FAZ values Manny or Bryce, but I believe they will be players for them. Many fans wanted FAZ to trade for Gioncarlo Stanton but his $300 million contract is a boat anchor. Quick: If you could have JD Martinez or Stanton who would you take? The Red Sox drew a line in the sand and got Martinez for $110 million. Again, signing big name free agents to long-term deals is usually not the path to success. Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel and Jacob deGrom are three pitchers who will likely get big dollar deals, but all will be over 30 next year and how far out do you want to go? Again, that is generally not the path to success. Buying aging pitchers generally ends badly.
I thought, as did many others that David Price and Justin Verlander were done. The Astros have one more year with Verlander and that may end up ok, but Price is a pitcher I do not think will hold up – the Red Sox caught lightening in a bottle… and, make no mistake winning a World Series does take some luck, but it is what it is. I would not touch those pitchers, but I would consider Manny and/or Bryce… at the right price.
Many of the top baseball minds consider Manny Machado as the best free agent in 2018. He was somewhat disappointing as a Dodger with a .825 OPS… not bad, but not superstar caliber. He dipped even more in the post-season to a .672 OPS – very pederstrian. Was he pressing? Was the weight of a new contract messing with him? Was being on a bigger stage a factor? Yes, Yes and Yes! I would not let that stop me from going after Manny and I think FAZ would sign him… at the right price.
Did Manny’s antics in the playoffs hurt his value? I don’t think so. In fact, like lots of things, if you look beyond thge obvious, you might have a different opinion. For example, Manny’s stepping Jesus Aguilar’ s foot looks bad… until you get into the context. Dodger players had been complaining all series that Aguilar was keeping his foot on the base too long, but he wouldn’t do anything about it. Manny did something about it, and secretly earned his teammates respect. What the media perceives as a negative, may actually be a positive. The umpires knew about it, which may be part of the reason Manny wasn’t ejected from the game. It wasn’t a bush league play – it was a guy doing something for his team.
Manny’s tenure with the Dodgers was so-so, but at age 26, he will likely get better every year for the next few years… and he has a body that does not seem prone to breakdown. Unlike Bryce Harper, he is on the field everyday. I think the Dodgers will sign him… if it makes sense. I’d sooner give him $300 million than Stanton, but I would not give that to eiher player. It has been speculated that Machado and Harper might get $300 to $400 million, but it was also speculated that JD Martinez might get $200 million and he only got $110 million. I think FAZ will be in on Manny at the right price… and that price might be around $200 to $250 million. I see no way anyone gives him $300 to $400 million. Just my opinion.
I think you will see FAZ spend more on the bullpen than they have in the past because they will have more to spend. You will also likely see signings like Morrow, Blanton and Koehler as well… because it just makes sense, but the Dodgers have a boatload of possible relievers next season (I’ll talk about that next week) from the minors that they don’t need to make any dope-fiend moves.
Finally, I have heard a lot of talk about how bad Chris Taylor was in 2018 and while I would like to see him cut his strikeouts down by 10 – 15%, he really wasn’t horrible. Compare him to another CF that many would love to have, Ender Inciarte. I think CT3 can improve and at least be as effective as he was in 2017… maybe better. We will talk about it more in the offseason, but I believe that the Dodgers will make it a priority to cut down the teams’ strikeouts. FAZ is not nearly as stupid as some may think… in fact, we all should be very happy that Andrew Friedman is running the Dodgers.