If you’re a player on the Los Angeles Dodgers you can finally breathe a sigh of relief that the Winter Meetings are now over. The Dodgers were by far the busiest team in baseball over the past four days. They had made four trades alone in the span of less than 24 hours toward their goal of revamping the roster and slashing the payroll.
After Magic Johnson and Mark Walter purchased the Dodgers from Frank McCourt in 2012, the Dodgers tried to put a contending team on the field fast by taking on over 100 million dollars in payroll when they acquired Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto from the Boston Red Sox to try to make a potential playoff push in 2012. Although they fell short, the Dodgers brain trust, then fronted by Ned Colletti, decided it was a great idea to go out and try to sign every free agent that was on the market to terrible deals to try to get good quick.
The Dodgers inked Zack Greinke to a 7-year, $145-million contract, signed or traded for a lot of bad relievers that used to be closers, tried out a lot of past their prime starters, but did manage to squeak out a few good trades. Like getting Hanley from the Miami Marlins. The Dodgers did have some success with this method, but much like their Californian brethren in the American League, the Oakland Athletics, found themselves bounced in the first or second round of the playoffs by the St. Louis Cardinals.
After another brisk appearance in the playoffs, Dodgers ownership thought it was time to have Coletti to step down from his general manager position and bring in a new man to front the organization. The Dodgers went out and got one of the best and brightest GM’s in the game in baseball in Andrew Friedman. Friedman stepped down as the Tampa Bay Rays General Manager to head out west to Los Angeles and signed a 5-year, $35-million contract to become the President of Baseball Operations.
Friedman was already widely regarded for his ability to keep the Rays a competitive team for all the years he did in the AL East. He competed with a payroll almost half as much as the other teams in his division, then going to a team that has owners with deep pockets and the desire to win now seemed like a perfect match.
One of Friedman’s first moves was hiring Farhan Zaidi to become the Dodgers’ new General Manager. Zaidi is widely known for his contributions to the A’s origination during the “Moneyball” era of the franchise. Most know Zaidi as Peter Brand, the fictional character that portrayed Zaidi in the money “Moneyball”.
Since taking over in October, Friedman has made his presence felt in the Dodgers organization. Completing over 20 trades to try to put the Dodgers payroll back on track and revamp their roster.
Some wonder what Friedman is thinking tinkering and dismantling a roster that won 94 games last season. But if you look at some of the moves Friedman has made, he is looking more like a genius then a madman.
Let’s take a brief look at the trades Friedman made at the Winter Meetings, just to take a look at the genius he really is.
The biggest trade Friedman made over the course of the Winter Meetings was trading Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres. Kemp, who has been in trade talks for the last two seasons, was coming off a bounce back season. Posting his best statistics since his near MVP campaign in 2011.
Some would view the return for Kemp as underwhelming, which is true. Yasmani Grandal, a player who has already been suspended once for his involvement in the biogenesis scandal, is looked upon as the centerpiece of the four pieces traded from the Padres to the Dodgers. Looking at the return and along with the fact that the Dodgers gave up $32-million as well for Kemp to play against the Dodgers 18 times a year, you scratch your head some. However, looking at the long-term effect of this deal you see the real genius of Friedman.
Kemp is a player who is going into his 30’s and has had a hard time staying on the field. He lost all defensive value he once had and is no longer the base stealing threat he once was. Getting rid of Kemp not only helps save the Dodgers from potentially spending money on more injury riddled seasons, but they finally free up a spot in their outfield. Making a spot for top prospect Joc Pederson to finally make an impact. Even if Pederson isn’t ready, the Dodgers still have a solid platoon option in Scott Van Slyke who could very well man center field with Andre Ethier. And you cannot forget to mention that Kemp still had five-years and $107-million owed to him by the Dodgers. Trading him and chipping in $32-million ends up saving the Dodgers $75-million over the next five years.
The return looks lacklustre, but the overall effect of this trade shows how smart Friedman and his new regime really is by freeing up center field for more cost efficient Pederson, and saving $75-million to allocate funds to other parts of the Dodgers.
The Marlins have been the butt of plenty of bad trades. Most of them at the hand of the Detroit Tigers. Friedman did his best Dave Dombrowski by sending out Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, and Miguel Rojas for Andrew Heaney, Enrique Hernandez, Austin Barnes, and Chris Hatcher.
Just looking at the swap it was clear the Dodgers won big time on this trade. Gordon posted his first above league average season last year, and his numbers were heavily inflated by a great first half. Haren has been a shell of himself the last two years, and is considering retirement now that he’s been dealt from his family in the Los Angeles area. The other prospects in this deal really aren’t that important. The fact that Gordon, Haren and Rojas somehow netted the Dodgers Heaney was preposterous on all levels.
Friedman, not stopping there, then dealt Heaney but five hours later to the Los Angeles Angels for Howie Kendrick. One trade netted them a top 20 top prospect in baseball, and allowed them to flip him for a much, much better second basemen than Gordon in return. Genius.
The Boston Red Sox decided to give Hanley Ramirez a lot of money the Dodgers did not feel he was worth. Smart move, considering the Dodgers have one of the best minor league shortstops in Corey Seager waiting in the wings. Bad news, Seager is only 20 and has yet to play above Double-A. Logical solution? Trade for the all-time Philadelphia Phillies hit leader Jimmy Rollins. Rollins is coming off a season where he was worth 3.6 wins, a little above league average, and still played good to average defense and was still providing good value on the basepaths.
Three trades fill the Dodgers middle infield perfectly, with two veteran players who will be ideal stop gaps for 2015 and not cost the Dodgers a lot of long-term money.
The last move is really the move you have to question the most. Yes, the Kemp trade is a big deal because you’re trading away arguably your best outfielder, but we’ve already talked about why that deal makes sense in the long run. The signing of Brandon McCarthy is the riskiest addition the Dodgers made. 2014 was the first time ever McCarthy ever started 30 plus games in the big leagues. His injury history is as long as a dictionary, with most of his injuries involving his shoulder. The Dodgers are banking four-years and $48-million that McCarthy’s shoulder will remain intact and allow him to pitch like he did with the Yankees in the second half of 2014.
But, McCarthy is a clear upgrade over Haren in the rotation and when the Yankees removed the handcuffs the Arizona Diamondbacks put on him by not letting him throw his slider, everyone saw what McCarthy was capable of. So this could be another win for considering McCarthy’s AAV is only 12 million a year.
With all the moves made, it’s left a lot of people wondering what exactly the Dodgers brain trust is thinking. But looking at all the moves that Friedman and company has made, he really does look like a genius. He was handed a job with an ownership that is willing to spend a lot of money to get better. Yet Friedman has decided to keep the same mentality as he did in Tampa: cost-effective young talent, limiting long-term deals, and trying to build within. You can certainly make the argument that the Dodgers minus Kemp and all are actually a better team than they were last season. All the while cutting payroll and opening up spots for young cost-effective talent.
Is Friedman a madman? No this man is a genius. If this last two months are any indication of what Friedman’s plans are for the Dodgers over the next five years, the rest of the National League better watch out.