While the Dodgers had hoped to put an ugly April behind them, they’ve now lost seven of eight games and sit just a game up on the cellar-dwelling Padres. Clearly, it’s not too late for the club to get back into the division race; they sit eight back of the Diamondbacks, a large but hardly insurmountable gap at this stage of the year. But the questions and the pressures are only increasing in Los Angeles, where fans had hoped for a strong follow-up to a 2017 campaign that ended agonizingly close to a long-awaited World Series win.
President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman chatted with Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times about the rough start and what he intends to do about it. It’s well worth a full read, but these are a few of the highlights:
- Manager Dave Roberts does not appear to be at risk of losing his job, with Friedman saying that “[t]here is no doubt in my mind that [Roberts] is the right guy to lead this team going forward.” At the same time, Friedman did not make any express guarantees of job safety for Roberts, who can be retained via club option in 2019. More broadly, Friedman said the preference is to focus on improving rather than assigning blame for a middling run to date. But “if we had to assign blame at this point,” he added, “it should be me who is taking that, and not [Roberts].”
- As Shaikin explains, the Dodgers’ lineup and starting rotation have actually produced at decent rates. While more might have been expected from those units, it’s a fairly short sample and injuries (to Justin Turner and Corey Seager, in particular) have certainly played a role. As Shaikin rightly notes, though, the bullpen has been a major problem for Los Angeles. Friedman acknowledges that issue, and generally expressed ample openness to seeking mid-season upgrades. But significant trades, just aren’t realistic at this point, he says, so the organization’s collective attention is on internal improvement. “When you’re evaluating things in May, the outside is not really a viable option,” says Friedman. “So all of your focus is on helping your own guys to perform up to their ability.”
- Of course, the relief unit lost some key pieces (most notably, Brandon Morrow) over the winter, with the Dodgers choosing to prioritize financial efficiency in finding replacements — due in no small part, it seemed, to the fact that the club preferred to stay beneath the luxury tax threshold. Shaikin pressed Friedman on the question whether the luxury line would continue to constrain the organization’s options as they weigh deadline maneuvers. The Dodgers’ top baseball executive did not commit to a willingness to go past the line, but did say that the competitive balance tax situation will generally be treated “just like trading prospects,” in that the club will need to “optimize the current year while putting [itself] in a position to sustain it.” It certainly sounds, then, as if the club will not be drawing any firm lines in the sand when it comes to taking on salary (versus parting with other resources) in mid-season trade talks.