Indeed, many media outlets covering the Dodgers could probably spend half of the winter writing about what Andrew Friedman told reporters at his end-of-season press conference on Monday.
If you happened to miss it, Andy did a fine job discussing some of the highlights in her column on Monday afternoon.
Perhaps one of the most controversial points was when Friedman said that he felt his 2019 bullpen had the ability to win a World Series.
Personally, I had many mixed reactions immediately after reading that comment.
Obviously, my first notion, and the one that seemed to dominate social media on Monday, was when a slew of fans retorted, “If the team had that much confidence in the relief crew, then why use Clayton Kershaw and Joe Kelly for multiple innings in NLDS Game 5?”
With that question comes plenty of fallout, much of which we’ll talk about in the coming weeks. Nonetheless, Friedman explained that Roberts has final say on in-game personnel decisions, suggesting that perhaps the skipper did not trust Kenley Jansen and others in that particular situation. Either that, or Roberts was getting a little to sentimental or gutsy in his decisions.
But, that’s complete speculation on my end.
I suppose one thing that does give credence to Friedman’s claim, though, is the fact that the 2019 bullpen was packed with plenty of arms who were regular starters or decent swing men. Kenta Maeda comes to mind right away. Whether he should remain a reliever or rejoin the rotation in 2020—like Friedman hinted—is another one of those secondary topics.
Flanked around Maeda were Ross Stripling, Dustin May and Julio Urias. All of these pitchers may not have otherwise been in the bullpen if they would have been part of a starting rotation. I suppose that Friedman considered that an upgrade in itself. Certainly, that theory would apply to Maeda, as he was absolutely brilliant in relief during the NLDS this year.
Still, it baffles me how the Dodgers—who, coincidentally, were tied with Washington for most blown saves in the NL—would have had a good enough bullpen to capture a World Championship.
Part of me thinks that Friedman was using a bit of reverse psychology in the sense that he was defending his philosophy of mostly building his bullpens from within the system. After all, fans were pleading over the summer of a few big names—Craig Kimbrel comes to mind immediately—but look what happened to him. The Braves swiped up almost every reliever who had a reputable pedigree, and it didn’t get them very far at all.
Consequently, maybe Friedman was preparing fans for what’s to come over the winter in terms of possible upgrades. By saying his 2019 relief crew was good enough to go the whole way, perhaps he was inferring that he’s confident sticking with the same crew heading into 2020.
He did confirm that Jansen, the same Kenley who had eight blown saves by himself, will conceivably begin next season as the squad’s primary closer.
Nevertheless, one can’t help but take a gander at this winter’s free agent market. Some of the big names who jump out are Will Smith (the pitcher, obviously), Will Harris, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman, should he decide to opt out of his contract. Almost every fan and their brother had the lefty Smith linked to the Dodgers at last summer’s trade deadline in some shape or form.
Will the Dodgers use some of the money that’s coming off the books to buy one of these heralded arms? Probably not, especially after Friedman invested millions in Kelly only to produce an extremely disappointing campaign.
The reality of all this is that while fans were hoping for some type of change at the top of the organization this winter, they might not even see much changes to the existing roster, much less the bullpen itself.
Perhaps the plan is not to spend the extra $25+ million at all, giving it back to investors while showing the baseball world how a team that is $50 million under the Luxury Tax Threshold can be perennial division winners.
Seemingly, that makes ownership quite happy.