I'm still in a bit of shock that Andrew Friedman would leave the Rays for the Dodgers. As some of you may know, I worked in the Rays front office for two years from 2006-07. While I worked mostly on the business side of the organization, I got to know Friedman pretty well.
Friedman has always had a deep loyalty to Rays owner Stu Sternberg, the man who turned him and close friend Matt Silverman into the team's top executives while they were in their late-20s. Friedman has a truly special relationship with Sternberg, Silverman, manager Joe Maddon, newly promoted team president Brian Auld, and most of the organization's front office. The relationship was so close and unique that I thought Friedman would never leave as long as Sternberg owned the team. After all, he did turn down lucrative opportunities with the Angels, Cubs, and his hometown Astros.
But I guess Friedman got tired of being forced to trade every top player his organization developed. And the Rays appear no closer to getting a new stadium than they were back when I worked for them.
In my opinion, the Dodgers are getting MLB's best GM. Friedman understands that baseball operations is more than just a 25-man roster or a 40-man roster. With Friedman, overseeing baseball operations includes seven minor league squads, a clear and coherent player development plan to that is adhered to at all levels of the organization, and a robust scouting department that finds the best talent available.
Friedman is one of the best when it comes to combining stats and scouting. He's also one of the best at finding bargains to fill roster spots. Too often the Dodgers have ferociously gone after the most recognizable name available, when better less recognizable names have beaten them in the postseason. When it comes to improving the roster, I know that Friedman will leave no stone unturned. Much of the "advice" I've offered the Dodgers has come from watching Friedman make the Rays one of baseball's best teams in recent years, despite a small budget.
For years, I've been writing that the Dodgers need a better plan for drafting and developing prospects. Hiring Gerry Hunsicker last year as a senior advisor was a major step in the right direction. Now Friedman will be reunited with Hunsicker in LA after the two worked together in Tampa Bay for several years.
It remains to be seen if Friedman will try to pry Maddon away as well. While I've been very supportive of Don Mattingly, I do believe that Maddon is the best manager in baseball. He has close ties to the LA-area having spent most of his professional career in the Angels organization, and he makes his offseason home in Long Beach.
The Dodgers have taken a major step forward today. I believe they are now well positioned for long-term success. I couldn't be more excited to be in LA while he's running the team, and I look forward to covering it.