Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Friedman's main goal: get younger, better

After nine years of serving as the general manager of the Dodgers, Ned Colletti has been told to step aside.  In his place will be one of the brightest and most buzz-worthy young names in baseball: Andrew Friedman of the Tampa Bay Rays.

What will the 37-year-old be focused on as he goes from the money-tight Rays to the free-spending Dodgers?  Simply put, get younger, and get better.

That's the goal for pretty much every team, but especially for a Dodger team that has a ridiculous amount of money tied up to veterans over the next handful of seasons ($190 million next year, $170 million the two after, and $130 million in 2018, according to Hardball Talk).  It's safe to say Friedman is not used to anything quite like that.

But it is reality, and that's the price the Dodgers have paid to be in the postseason the last two seasons.  It's really hard to make the playoffs in baseball, so to that point, all the money has worked to a certain degree.  The downside is that last year they lasted six games in the NLCS, and this year it was only four in the NLDS.  Not exactly what they thought was going to happen.

Now the Dodgers are looking to take that all-important next step, which is a big one.  They want to find guys who will get them over the hump, all while not throwing all sorts of cash to guys on the downsides of their careers.

In other words, don't expect to see anymore Red Sox/Dodgers trades like we did in 2012.

What are some things we might see?  Well, here's a few possibilities.

1) No more overpaying for ex-closers to strengthen the bullpen.  In fact, doing so has had quite the opposite effect.  Brian Wilson had a good end of 2013, and followed that up with an awful 2014.  Brandon League was signed to be a closer, and instead has been relegated to no-stress innings.  Chris Perez has been flat out atrocious, and should not be back.

You can't blame Colletti for trying, but the bottom line is that he gave out a whole lot of money for very little results.  Those guys proved over and over why they're EX-closers, and not current ones.  I doubt Friedman makes the same mistakes.

2) Figure out the outfield mess.  You know part of "get younger" has to include finding a spot for top prospect Joc Pederson.  While Pederson didn't exactly light it up in his brief stint in September, he has shown both the ability to get it done at the plate and in the field in the minors.

How will he crack the lineup?  It will only happen if someone like Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier is moved.  Crawford is still owed a little over $60 million over the next three years, and Ethier just over $50 during that same span.  Moving them won't be easy at all, but at the very least, you have to think one of them is going to be gone.

That would leave Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Pederson as the starting outfield.  That's a much younger, less expensive trio.  More importantly, it won't leave the manager needing to juggle the lineup card every single day.

3) Strengthen the bottom of the rotation.  This will especially be useful in the postseason, so the Dodgers don't feel pressured to use Clayton Kershaw on short rest for the third straight year.  Dan Haren was a roller coaster in 2014, and Josh Beckett was lost probably for good because of a bad hip.

Unless the Dodgers want to roll the dice on young Julio Urias, all 18 years of him, then the help will have to come from outside the organization.

4) Decide whether or not to bring back Hanley Ramirez.  The Dodgers could make a qualifying offer of one year and $15.3 million, which he probably wouldn't accept because he can find a better offer on the free agent market.  Or do they decide that a healthy Ramirez for parts of the season is better than nothing, and offer him a multi-year deal?

Friedman built his team in Tampa Bay by not overpaying for veterans like Ramirez, who can't stay in the lineup consistently.  I would think the odds of him coming back just got slimmer.

5) Finally, figure out how much he wants Don Mattingly.  Donny Baseball signed a three-year extension before this season, but after an early playoff exit, the heat has definitely been turned up once again.  Mishandling his entire pitching staff at the worst of times did him no favors.

And guess what?  Tampa's Joe Maddon just happens to be in the final year of his deal.  Bring on the speculation of Maddon coming to LA.  It's only natural to wonder, as Maddon is a former coach for the Angels of many years, and has turned himself into one of the top managers in baseball despite the low-budget team he works for.  This year didn't go so hot, but he's consistently turned the Rays into a playoff contender in a very tough AL East.

I just don't see Mattingly staying around long now that Colletti has been pushed aside.  Like I said before, there's so much heat on Mattingly now that it might do everyone good just to move on.  Maybe not in 2015, but after that.

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