Friedman has been pursued by many teams in the past, as his tenure as Rays GM has been marked by some remarkable organizational player development as well as some shrewd trades. But as the Rays continue to struggle financially as a small-market team, the franchise took a few steps backward this season, compiling a 77-85 record (fourth in the American League East) and trading homegrown ace David Price to the Detroit Tigers.
The Dodgers are on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to payroll and costs: the team’s $238.8 million payroll was the highest in Major League Baseball, and the talent was good enough to compile a 94-68 record, first in the National League West. But owner Stan Kasten has a history of building a franchise with a solid farm system, and that’s one area where Friedman has thrived. This offseason saw the Dodgers shake up their minor-league affiliates to exert some more control over development — signing deals with the Oklahoma City RedHawks (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and Tulsa Drillers (Class AA; Texas League) — and with the signing of Friedman as team president, you can expect even more emphasis on player development. The move also moves former GM Ned Colletti upstairs as an assistant to Kasten.
“Andrew Friedman is one of the youngest and brightest minds in the game today and we are very fortunate to have him join our organization,” said Dodger President & CEO Stan Kasten. “The success he has had over the past nine years in molding the Tampa Bay Rays team has been incredible.”
Ned Colletti, who has been the Dodgers general manager since 2005, will remain with the club in a new role as senior advisor to the president and CEO of the Dodgers, Stan Kasten.
Sources said that Friedman, in his role as president of baseball operations, will have the ability to hire a general manager.
Landing the 37-year-old Friedman is a coup for the Dodgers. A handful of teams have tried unsuccessfully to poach the talented young executive with a Wall Street background, who piloted the small-market, budget-conscious Rays to six consecutive winning seasons and four playoff appearances after taking over in 2008.
Structuring a franchise over a strong farm system is something MLB executives always extol, but it’s a lot harder to pull off than many think. A small-market team like the Kansas City Royals can afford to spend years struggling to build the player base that leaves the team two wins from a World Series. But a large market team like the Los Angeles Dodgers — with lots of competition in the local sports market — can’t finish in last place for several years in a row and must be consistently competitive. It’s not impossible — the Cardinals and the Giants manage to remain competitive while developing homegrown talent — but it’s hard, and it will be interesting to see how Friedman manages expectations.