Dodgers’ new president goes buck wild at Winter Meetings
The Dodgers gave Andrew Friedman a get-out-of-jail-free card, enabling him to escape from low-revenue purgatory in Tampa Bay. Friedman’s response was to hit the mall, burn down half the stores and buy out all the rest.
For a moment Wednesday night, it seemed that Friedman and his new cohorts in the Dodgers’ front office might trade with all 29 other teams and possibly complete three — count ‘em, three — three-team deals.
Officially, Friedman made separate trades to send second baseman Dee Gordon to the Marlins and replace him with second baseman Howie Kendrick from the Angels. He also is on the verge of acquiring shortstop Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies and moving outfielder Matt Kemp to the Padres, two deals that are connected.
Kemp is headed to the Padres along with catcher Tim Federowicz and $32 million for catcher Yasmani Grandal and pitchers Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin. The Dodgers then are expected to flip Eflin to the Phillies as part of the package for Rollins.
Approval from the commissioner’s office is needed to complete the deal, but that is a given. The review of medical records is a far bigger concern — Kemp, Grandal and Wieland all have significant injury histories, and officials on both sides are nervous about possible hang-ups.
The Padres, if the deal goes through, will be getting a steal — Kemp at $15 million per season for the next five years. Federowicz will replace Grandal, teaming with Rene Rivera at a position where the Pads were strong. There is no other way to say it — the trade will be a huge coup for new general manager A.J. Preller and the club’s ownership, one of the most inspired moves in club history.
But back to the Dodgers.
As if all of the trades weren’t enough, the team also reached agreement Wednesday night with free-agent right-hander Brandon McCarthy on a four-year, $48 million contract, according to major-league sources. And Friedman, in a midnight PT news conference at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, said he wants to add one more starter after sending righty Dan Haren to the Marlins along with Gordon.
It’s a lot to process in such a short time, but the Dodgers know one thing: They will be sharply criticized for their meager return on Kemp. Yes, they had a surplus in the outfield, a hole at shortstop and a need for another catcher. Their goal was an overall upgrade of the roster. But it will be almost impossible for them to justify this trade in the narrow view.
The Dodgers, remember, won 94 games last season, capturing the NL West for the fourth time in seven years before falling to the Cardinals in the Division Series. But never mind all that. By the time this is all over, the team will be barely recognizable.
Their catching duo will be holdover A.J. Ellis and Grandal. Their double-play combination will consist of two potential free agents, Rollins and Kendrick. And their rotation will be Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, McCarthy and a pitcher to be named.
Will the Dodgers be better? Difficult to say. The subtractions of Kemp along with Hanley Ramirez will deprive the lineup of right-handed power — Puig hit only five homers after May 28 last season, while Kendrick slugged a career-low .397 for the Angels. But the pitching and defense should be fabulous, and who knows, maybe Friedman will pull off another deal or six.
Under Friedman, whose official title is president of baseball operations, the Dodgers have completed nine trades in the past 24 days, supplementing their bullpen, adding to their depth, infusing young talent. Some will question trading four years of Gordon and replacing him with one year of Kendrick, though Kendrick is a superior player. Others will wonder whether four years of McCarthy is too big a risk now that the oft-injured pitcher is 31. And trading Kemp within the division could haunt the Dodgers for a long, long time.
The overall plan, though, is compelling.
Streamline the payroll. Create paths for youngsters such as Pederson and shortstop Corey Seager. Make the roster more flexible, spend when appropriate, combine financial might with an improving farm system to gain access to virtually any player available in free agency or trade.
Burn it down. Build it up. Friedman and Co. are only getting started.