Yeah, so the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have swimming pools full of cash to dive into, found their new head of baseball operations in Andrew Friedman. Here's a sampling of the bajillion tweets about the big get:
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) October 14, 2014
This is one of the best general managers in the game, who has had to work with a shoestring budget possibly even tighter than Billy Beane has in Oakland. He's gotten his team, the Tampa Bay Rays, to the playoffs more than expected and got them to the World Series in 2008 (beating Theo Epstein's Red Sox to get there, by the way).
Now imagine the video game baseball scenario where you have one of the best minds in baseball at the helm of one of the largest budgets in the majors, and the possibilities are endless.
Will it be easy? Well, it won't be a cake walk. The Dodgers are saddled with some huge contracts, including those of Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Andre Ethier among others. However, they are also in a much better position than when Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over the Cubs three years ago. The Dodgers have gotten to the playoffs two years in a row, they employ possibly the best starting pitcher (small samples of postseason disaster aside) in Clayton Kershaw, another very capable starter in Zack Greinke, and have one of the best position players in Yasiel Puig. They do have some very intriguing prospects, and the albatross contracts aren't really albatrosses (well, maybe Ethier and Crawford) because the players are still very useful and can be flipped for other assets.
Is Friedman going to spend out the wazoo then? Maybe not necessarily, either. I recall reading from somewhere that the Dodgers are looking to decrease payroll to a more manageable number, and the Lasorda's Lair blog at least partially confirms this idea. It would be foolish to think that LA won't be in on big free agents such as Jon Lester, James Shields, etc., or Kenta Maeda if he's posted, or maybe the next random Cuban guy du jour.
There are several factors I can think of that can be impacted within the next couple seasons...
1. The manager situation
This has to do with Don Mattingly, who's done some weird stuff in the playoffs (and in the regular season), including benching Yasiel Puig. I guess it was a justifiable benching since Puig's been struggling, but we're also talking about less than ten plate appearances, and that may or may not have contributed to the Dodgers' early exit. Mattingly has also been the victim of a poor bullpen, which is very well-documented out on the interwebs, so I guess he didn't have much of a choice in some regards. But you have to consider that whomever Friedman hires as his general manager (and it's not Ned Colletti anymore) will want his own manager, OR Friedman may want to bring over Joe Maddon, who is one of the best in the business, either very soon or when his contract is done at the end of 2015.
Whether or not Joe Maddon ultimately becomes a Dodger may also impact the Cubs' decision-making process. Rick Renteria is employed through at least 2016, with a couple of team options tacked at the end. I don't think Epstein and Hoyer will jettison their manager after he contributed to Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo getting back on track, and helping to develop a VERY young team while improving on last season's record. Renteria may have made some poor in-game decisions too, but he's a likable guy who seems to get results and I don't think he's on the hot seat. However, I would not be surprised to see the Cubs put out feelers for Maddon as soon as next offseason if the Dodgers and Friedman don't trade for him first.
2. The NL West
I have rooting interests in the San Francisco Giants, but Los Angeles has just infused the richest team in the division with one of the smartest (if not the smartest) baseball executives in existence. At least three of the teams in the division now are in turmoil, while the last one standing (the Giants) have some roster issues to deal with this offseason. Friedman can heavily impact what the Giants do, and may also prevent SF from becoming a runaway juggernaut in their own right.
Friedman now has command of a huge payroll, and have I said that he's like ultra-smart? Anyway, all those free agents that the Cubs (and others) want? Whether they are stateside or foreign, the Dodgers now have a guy who knows how to evaluate and acquire impact talent at a premium, so there's some competition there. While they're not in the same division, you can envision a situation where the Dodgers and the Cubs (should they become a contender) will meet in wild card, division or championship series before getting to the World Series, and a Friedman-constructed mega-roster doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. Not that I don't trust what the Cubs are doing, but you never underestimate a formidable opponent.
In the end, good on the Dodgers for getting the guy they probably needed to put that payroll to some crazy good use. I like Kershaw and Greinke and Puig and Vin Scully, but I'll still be rooting for the Cubs (and Giants) to make Friedman's foray into the National League a little bumpier than he'd like.