Dodgers president of baseball operation Andrew Friedman is unsigned for the 2020 season, but he said in today’s year-end press conference that he expects to wrap up a new contract with the team within the next few days (Twitter links via Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times). Friedman also confirmed that Dave Roberts will return as the team’s manager in 2020, as Castillo originally reported late last week.
Friedman, 42, jumped from his role as the Rays’ executive vice president and general manager to the Dodgers back in 2014, agreeing to a reported five-year, $35MM contract that at the time was the largest deal ever inked by a baseball executive. He aggressively reshaped the Dodgers, trading away the likes of Matt Kemp, Dee Gordon and Dan Haren in his first offseason at the helm (netting Yasmani Grandal, Enrique Hernandez and others, including Andrew Heaney, whom he immediately traded to the Angels for Howie Kendrick).
Friedman’s front-office group has been involved in some of the most complex trades in recent history, including not only the Kemp trade but the three-team, 13-player swap with the Braves and Marlins that centered around Hector Olivera, Alex Wood, Mat Latos and the remainder of Bronson Arroyo’s dead-money contract. Friedman even reacquired Kemp from the Braves in yet another financially motivated swap and then traded Kemp to the Reds this past offseason in a further example of juggling funds to remain south of the luxury tax line.
The Dodgers’ baseball operations group has, in some ways, become a pipeline for other organizations throughout the league. Former GM Farhan Zaidi was named Giants president of baseball operations last winter, while former vice president Alex Anthopoulos, who landed with the Dodgers after leaving the Blue Jays, became general manager of the Braves. Gabe Kapler served as the Dodgers’ director of player development before being hired as the Phillies’ manager, and one of Kapler’s top lieutenants, Jeremy Zoll, was hired away by the Twins to serve as their director of minor league operations.
On the field, Friedman’s penchant for aggressive, creative trades and his manipulation of MLB’s waiver/DFA process and shortened injured list minimum have helped the Dodgers to cultivate extraordinary levels of depth on their 40-man roster. That’s been a major advantage for the Dodgers, who have averaged 97 wins and taken home the NL West division title in all five of Friedman’s seasons atop the front office infrastructure. It has not, however, manifested in the form of an increasingly elusive World Series championship. The Dodgers appeared in the World Series in both 2017 and 2018 in addition to an NLCS berth in 2016, but they’ve yet to break through that final plane.
That said, the Dodgers are well-positioned for long-term success. Much of the team’s young talent, including Walker Buehler and Cody Bellinger, is under club control for the foreseeable future. Top prospects Will Smith, Alex Verdugo, Gavin Lux, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin all reached the Majors in 2019, giving a glimpse at what the future may hold. The ample resources provided by ownership, paired with the apparent annual tradition of dropping some salary and luxury hits on the trade market, should give Friedman’s Dodgers room to be active in free agency. The Dodgers certainly have needs to address as they look to return to a third World Series in four years, but it doesn’t sound as though there are any plans to change who’ll have final say over how those needs are addressed.