There is a lot of uneasiness in Dodger-land these days as the Boys in Blue await the decision of free agent pitcher Zack Greinke. The two teams vying for his services are rivals; the Dodgers and Giants. The longer this thing drags on you have to think the worse it could be for the Dodgers.
Greinke is being courted hard by San Francisco. Ken Rosenthal reported on the MLB Network today that Buster Posey and Bruce Bochy met for the 3.5 hours with Greinke last week. No one is talking about the offers Greinke has fielded but several reports have the Giants offer as “aggressive.”
All while this takes place the Dodgers have been announcing the hiring of new manager Dave Roberts and hopefully negotiating hard to keep Greinke in Dodger Blue. But, none of us know since there is radio silence.
Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman has not had the easiest or most successful first year as the leader of the franchise. On one hand he did what almost every Dodger fan wanted him to do and that was keep the superb young talent in the Dodger system. Those of us who are not members or our lunatic fringe fan base did not want to see the kids traded for a quick fix.
While he was getting skewered nationally for not entering the Cole Hamels or David Price sweepstakes at the trade deadline, I was actually encouraged by his reticence not to trade the kids for a rotation addition that wasn’t a pressing need at the time. It turned out Mat Latos was a disaster and Alex Wood was average and the lack of depth in the rotation certainly hurt, but wasn’t the primary reason the Dodgers were sent packing in the first round of the playoffs. Make no mistake, the Dodgers lost in the playoffs because they couldn’t generate runs. They couldn’t play small ball and that should change with their new field manager.
Now as we approach the Winter Meetings in Nashville the task of strengthening this Dodger team is more difficult and a lot more treacherous than many might think for Friedman. First, if he loses Greinke to the Giants. God help him. In my opinion it would completely shift the balance of power in the National League West. Greinke is the lynch pin for the Dodgers, which should scare the hell out of everyone right now because with the Dodgers resources, if he hasn’t signed already with Los Angeles then the deeply analytical and thoughtful Greinke could possibly be thinking this isn’t the place for him (pure nervous conjecture on my part.) If Los Angeles isn’t the place for him than San Francisco most assuredly will be……..disaster.
When Friedman was brought in to run the organization and Farham Zaidi was brought in as the General Manager it was believed these young statistical geniuses would finally have some dollars to play with as they built a dynasty with their unique vision for Los Angeles. This may be true, but I also believe owner Mark Walter and the Guggenheim Group also told them to get the finances in order. Guggenheim needed to bring credibility back to the franchise while they negotiated their record TV deal in 2012. They did that. Now it’s time to quit paying people NOT to play for the team. So, who better to do it then two small market guys in Friedman and Zaidi who were use to pinching pennies.
The problem is the Dodgers have been too busy saying “no” to their peers in other front offices around the league and eventually they will have to start saying “yes.” It may be time to start trading some prospects to bring back some proven talent that can get this team over the hump. It may be time to make De Leon or Holmes available in an Aroldis Chapman trade. It may be time to look at trading the mercurial Yasiel Puig if he can net a Shelby Miller or Carlos Carrasco. It may be time to completely eat the salaries of Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier as they are both horribly overpaid and are clogging up the outfield. Certainly a line can be drawn of players the Dodgers will not and should not trade. But, the Dodgers need to start exploring ways of getting better that doesn’t involve the Jim Johnson patch-work deals we saw this year.
As you see it’s a difficult proposition for Friedman. He was handed the keys and he had a C-minus type of season. His two worst mistakes were the Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy signings, after Anderson accepted his option, those two deals will cost the Dodgers 76 million dollars. 76 million dollars for 4th and 5th starters AT BEST. Awful deals. The Dodgers were an imperfect assemblage of talent and its Friedman’s job to make the pieces fit, all while trimming long-term dead money but also investing in players that can serve the franchise into the future, but not too far into the future where they hamstring the team. Not easy.
It is unfair to bury Friedman after one year of questionable decisions. He didn’t adequately address the bullpen last year and it was a weakness once again. This year he can right-the-wrong by wrestling Chapman away from the Reds for prospects and signing the flavor of the month Darren O’Day as a free agent. If the Dodgers lose Greinke, they may HAVE to make those moves, shortening the game and giving them a lights out 7th, 8th and 9th inning option.
Lastly, if the Dodgers keep Greinke it will be in the neighborhood of 6 years and 210 million dollars with another OUT-clause. That is roughly 65-70 million dollars for two pitchers (Kershaw and Greinke) that couldn’t get you out of the first round the past two years. That is exactly why the Dodgers will need to get another quality starter, not knowing the health of Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy for next season. Whether it is Jeff Samardjzia, Mike Leake, John Lackey or a trade for a Carrasco, Shelby Miller or Chris Sale. The Dodgers will need to add to the back-end of their rotation.
When I look at the Dodgers I see way too many question marks. Do they sign Greinke ? If they don’t who do they sign ? If they do, who do they sign ? How do they rectify the log-jam in the outfield ? Is the real Joc Pederson the guy we saw before the All-Star break or after ? What do they do at second base ? What arms and how many arms do they bring in to solidify and finally strengthen a bullpen that has been an albatross for years ? Does their philosophy change under Dave Roberts ?
Three straight division titles, yet we all feel so unfulfilled.
Sleep well Andrew Friedman, you are going to need it