10/14/14, "From Rays’ Rags to Dodgers’ Riches
," NY Times, Tyler Kepner, Kansas City, Mo.
Moore, the Royals’ general manager, had the luxury of time and the
of discipline in building his team. Andrew Friedman did not take
as long to construct a winner in Tampa Bay
but he weathered four rough seasons, including two last-place finishes
as general manager, before the Rays won the pennant in 2008.
Dodgers had the major leagues’ highest payroll this season, around $230
and would never characterize themselves the way Stuart
Sternberg, Tampa Bay’s owner, described the Rays on Tuesday.
the hand we’re dealt and the way we go about it, it’s half a miracle we
get done what we get done and get to where we get to,” Sternberg said
during a conference call with reporters, adding: “I never really have a
lot of confidence in these things; the games have to be played. But I do
have a lot of confidence in the process.”
nine years as the Rays’ general manager, Friedman, who will be
introduced in Los Angeles on Wednesday
, had to stick to a process. He
never had a payroll above $77 million, so he never had much chance to
make an expensive mistake.
Wilson got a two-year, $19.5 million contract after pitching about 20
for the Dodgers in 2013. Brandon League got three years and
$22.5 million after a similar late-season cameo in 2012. Neither pitcher
was even the primary setup man, let alone the closer, this October.
Ethier, a spare outfielder, is owed a staggering $56 million for the
next three seasons
. Another outfielder, Carl Crawford, is owed almost
$65 million in the same span. And those players rank below a few others
at the top of the Dodgers’ salary structure.
case is instructive. Friedman let him leave as a free agent after the
2010 season, and while he surely recognized that Crawford, at 29, was
nearing the end of his prime, it was really not much of a choice. Boston
signed Crawford to an absurd seven-year, $142 million contract, when
Theo Epstein was the Red Sox’ general manager.
like Friedman, is a shrewd team builder, but even he is capable of
overreaching. The Crawford contract — like that of Adrian Gonzalez, who
was also miscast in Boston — would have continued to drag down the Red
Sox had the Dodgers not bailed them out in a 2012 trade. And while
Epstein patiently builds the Cubs, with a raft of high-end prospects
nearly ready, he has also misfired in Chicago. Edwin Jackson has been
among the majors’ worst pitchers since signing a four-year, $52 million
contract with the Cubs.
Dodgers have a high enough payroll space to paper over their mistakes;
they have won the National League West two seasons in a row. In theory,
Friedman gives them a chance to keep winning without wasting so much
money — or, at least, while spending more sensibly.
of the things I admire about him is his boldness and his courage,” said
Matt Silverman, a longtime top executive with the Rays who takes over
Friedman’s old spot. “He doesn’t shy away from difficult decisions. He’s
willing to stick his neck out for things he thinks are important.”
Tampa Bay, Friedman’s biggest decisions involved how long to keep
players before losing them to free agency or trading them, and which
players to target as cheaper alternatives. He did that job
a new set of challenges await in Los Angeles, and a new array of
rivals. Four of the five N.L. West teams — all but the San Francisco
Giants — have overhauled their front offices since the All-Star break.
Ned Colletti, the Dodgers’ general manager for the past nine years, will
stay on as a senior adviser.
time, perhaps, Friedman could lure Joe Maddon to be the Dodgers’
manager, although Don Mattingly is considered safe, and Maddon told
Sternberg he was happy in Tampa Bay. Sternberg said he expected no other
Rays employees to join Friedman in Los Angeles.
now, it is Friedman alone, with seemingly unlimited riches at his
disposal, but also a bloated payroll and a restless fan base with
championship expectations. It is a fascinating assignment, and a whole