I saw, I came, I conquered: that’s how Andrew Friedman and Dodgers must have felt after the Winter Meetings were over in San Diego. For a span that lasted over 24 hours the Los Angeles Dodgers had everyone scratching their heads and on their phones trying to piece together what the new Dodger brain trust were up to. It seemed that every minute Taft passed by there was another team, another player that was being connected to the Dodgers. The Dodgers were breaking Twitter with all the updates on potential moves they were about to make. And boy was it fun to watch. Andrew Friedman kept us on the edge of our seat.
The first move the Dodgers made was trading for Philadelphia Philies Jimmy Rollins. The trade for Rollins was seen by many as a smart move because it gives the Dodgers a veteran shortstop to replace Hanely Ramirez. With this move, the Dodgers hoped that Rollins’ leadership pedigree will transfer over to the Dodgers locker, which saw its share of problems last season.
Then came the trade with the Marlins, where the Dodgers traded a fan favorite in Dee Gordon and Dan Haren. This move was shocking because it left a vacancy in second base. The Dodgers only valuable asset in the Marlin trade was Andrew Heaney and young pitcher. Later that night it became clear why the Dodgers traded their young second baseman for a young pitcher. The Dodgers flipped Andrew Heaney to the Angels for Howie Kendrick, the Dodgers now had their second baseman.
Andrew Friedman held a press conference around midnight to discuss the moves they had made but the best shocker had yet to come. Everyone woke up Thursday morning still tying to understand what the Dodgers were doing and whether Andrew Friedman was the smartest man in the room when the Dodgers traded Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres for Yasmani Grandal and other complementary pieces. And not only that, but also the Dodgers would be paying $32 million for Kemp to play for the Padres who are in the same division.
On the surface, I would understand why fans might be critical of this move. It looks like the Dodgers did get enough for Kemp, who had a great second half. But fans have to look at the big picture of things. When it comes to Andrew Friedman fans must have some faith and trust that he and his team know what they are doing.
With the moves they made in the Winter Meetings, they tremendously improved their defense up the middle. Hanely and Dee were a -13 in run prevention. However, Rollins and Kendrick make up a +12 in run prevention. That is a 25 point swing we are talking about; that’s huge! So how do you make a good pitching staff even better? You improve the defense and that’s exactly what the Dodgers did by trading for Rollins and Kendrick and Grandal.
Grandal is one of the best catchers in baseball in framing pitches, which is another way to make a good pitching staff even better. Is it starting to click? Is the bigger picture becoming clear? The Dodgers became a better defensive team over night by making these moves which was a need they had to address. Preventing runs is just as important as scoring runs and this team is now capable of both. So the question is how do you replace the production of a Hanely Ramirez and Matt Kemp? Well you don’t do it with one player. You do it with multiple players. If you take the production of Rollins, Kendricks and Grandal it’s awfully close to the production you got from Ramierz and Kemp. With these acquisitions the Dodgers now have a complete team that won’t have to rely on Clayton Kershaw having a historic season to win the division.
The crazy thing is I don’t think Andrew Friedman is even close to be done wheeling and dealing. It’s possible he still has a couple more moves up his sleeve. Now we also have to see how these moves actually work out. If Rollins still has anything left and if Joc Pedsrson can become the everyday center field, then it appears that the Dodgers are headed in the right direction.
Having witnessed what Friedman was able to pull off during these Winter Meetings, I’m more intrigued by the vision that he has for this team. Friedman was successful with the Tampa Bay Rays while on a small budget. Now with the Dodgers, he has at his disposal an unlimited amount of resources; essentially, the sky is the limit. We are going to see if Friedman truly is the smartest man in the room.