Dodgers: Let’s Hold off on Crucifying Andrew Friedman
The Los Angeles Dodgers did the opposite of expectations, by not acquiring top-level bullpen help to help fortify their one weakness. Instead, they opted for low-key additions to the frustration and shock of many, while their top competitor out of the American League surprised the baseball world by acquiring Zack Greinke from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
And if you were to listen to baseball media members and see reactions from fans on social media, the lone takeaway would be that the Dodgers are now hopeless because they squandered the perfect opportunity to end a 31-year-old title drought while the Houston Astros added a top-flight starting pitcher. Talk about overreacting.
And as expected, it’s President of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman, who is getting the brunt of the scrutiny. The 42-year-old is getting criticized for hoarding prospects instead of being aggressive. He’s being blamed for balancing the long-term and short-term instead of 100% focusing on 2019. And he’s being attacked for always being cheap and never making an aggressive move.
Everyone’s a critic now. But we all need to take a deep breath and understand that it’s not the end of the Dodgers’ season, nor is it the end of the world. Remember, the boys in blue still possess the best record in baseball for a reason.
Yes, getting their hands on Felipe Vázquez of the Pittsburgh Pirates would have been ideal, and go a long way to helping Los Angeles win the World Series. But at what cost?
MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported that the Dodgers and Pirates were engaged in a “staring contest,” but neither ended up blinking. Numerous reports indicated that Pittsburgh wanted at least two of L.A.’s top three prospects. That meant any combination of infielder Gavin Lux, catcher Keibert Ruiz, and starting pitcher Dustin May, with Lux and May their apparent preferences.
For those saying that the Dodgers needed to do whatever it took to end a three-decade drought, Andrew Friedman doesn’t care about that. He views it as a four-year dry spell since he took over, but it’s his job to build a contender in the present while making that success sustainable in the long-term. And that is precisely what he’s done and is doing.
Besides, there’s a difference between being aggressive and foolish, and it’s not his M.O. to dish out significant prospects for a lone reliever, nor should it be. You never overpay for one, no matter how good and how long he’s under team control for.
Other than the fact that late-inning relievers will usually throw just 70-80 innings (at most) in a season, they are volatile year-to-year and typically don’t remain at their peaks for too long. And one bullpen arm doesn’t guarantee a single thing, especially in the playoffs.
Giving up an elite prospect who figures to fill in your hole at second base (Gavin Lux), and a guy with frontline potential (Dustin May) for one is an unwise move. No deal is better than a bad one.
Plus, Friedman doesn’t hoard prospects; he’s just smart. If you have an exceptional talent, you do what you can to hold onto him. The fact that he’s refusing to part with Lux and May means there’s a reason, and we should trust his talent evaluation. He deserves that much.
If holding onto Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Julio Urías, Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo, and Joc Pederson constitutes as hoarding, then so be it. They all turned out to be the correct decisions, and the Dodgers wouldn’t be where they are without them. He knows what he’s doing.
Besides, Friedman will make the big move if the price is right. He moved three pitching prospects for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick at the 2016 deadline. He dealt away Jose De Leon (the Dodgers’ third-ranked prospect at the time) for Logan Forsythe before the 2017 season.
At the 2017 deadline, the Dodgers acquired ace Yu Darvish for one of their better minor leaguers, along with separate deals for relievers Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani. And just last season, L.A.’s front office assembled a package to bring in star shortstop, Manny Machado.
And what did all those moves result in? Not a single ring, which means winning the July 31st trade deadline doesn’t guarantee a championship.
“But what about Aroldis Chapman and Justin Verlander?!” What about them?
Chapman was viewed as the missing closer for the Chicago Cubs in 2016 but he had an unspectacular 3.42 ERA in 15.1 postseason innings when they won that year. In his 13 October appearances, the lefty blew a late two-run lead in Game 1 of the 2016 NLCS against the Dodgers, and a late three-run lead in Game 7 of the World Series before getting bailed out by his offense.
And yes, Verlander is a significant reason why the Astros made it to the fall classic in 2017, but he wasn’t the reason they won it. He had a 3.75 ERA in two World Series starts (12 innings), and people forget he left both his outings with his team trailing. Houston should have lost both of them if not for the L.A. bullpen blowing Game 2 of the series.
Speaking of which, the Dodgers’ bullpen had a 3.38 regular-season ERA in 2017 and 2.39 ERA with an opponents’ .601 OPS that postseason and lost in the World Series. They had a 3.72 regular-season ERA last year and a 2.78 mark with an opponents’ .622 OPS in the playoffs and came second place again.
The two winners? The Astros won in spite of a bullpen that posted a 4.27 regular season ERA before collapsing for a 5.40 ERA in 61.2 October innings. And the Red Sox’s unit had a 3.72 mark in the regular season before getting hot in October and lowering it to 2.71 in 63 innings.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Dodgers can follow in their footsteps. They have a juggernaut of an offense and starting rotation to carry the team if needed- like the Astros. Or, the bullpen can get hot like Boston’s last year, and Los Angeles certainly has the pieces to do so.
Kenley Jansen isn’t what he once was, but he can still be elite on his best days. Julio Urías has been a stud out of the pen, while Pedro Baez has been reliable. And after a disastrous first two months to the season, Joe Kelly seems to be turning it around, while new addition, Adam Kolarek is a lefty specialist that can come in handy.
Then there are the starters who may get moved to the bullpen, such as Kenta Maeda who has made the transition the last two Octobers and impressed. Pitching prospects Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin are getting looked at with the big league squad in hopes of them helping out as well. Gonsolin impressed during his four-inning relief appearance in Colorado this past week, showing he could be a weapon for the Dodgers.
Is the bullpen perfect? No. But the playoffs are a crapshoot in which they just need to get hot for a month, and they have the options for that to happen. Plus, who says Lux and May won’t have an effect on the team, come playoff time?
If they do lose because of a 7th or 8th inning meltdown, then we can look at Friedman. But even then, Vázquez wouldn’t have guaranteed a single thing. And until that time comes, we need to relax because the boys in blue haven’t lost yet.
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Featured Image via Flickr/Arturo Paradavila III