Andrew Friedman explains Dodgers’ decision not to spend big

Since taking over the Dodgers’ front office nearly a decade ago, Andrew Friedman has sought to strike a careful balance in building the club’s roster:

Maximize the team’s chances of winning the World Series each new season while maintaining its ability to remain a contender for years to come.

Call it the Doctrine of Sustained Success; the belief that championship windows need not swing from fully open to fully closed, but can be permanently opened through clever top-down organizational execution.

“We’ve seen a lot of great teams compete for a short period of time and then fall off a cliff,” Friedman said this week during the annual San Diego winter meetings, where his calculated philosophies were put under renewed scrutiny.

While many teams indulged in an almost unprecedented spending spree, the Dodgers stuck to their principles and kept a tight grip on their wallets.

They’ve negotiated with several big-name players but haven’t overspent themselves in an overstretched market that has already spent more than $2 billion in guaranteed money.

It’s not that the Dodgers couldn’t use another splashy signing, with an experienced starting pitcher, a defensively capable midfielder and a potential new shortstop all on their wish list for the offseason.

It’s not as if they lacked the financial capital for a blockbuster move, with a current luxury-tax payroll of around $189 million — nearly $100 million down from last season and still well below the luxury-tax threshold the league of $233 million.

Instead, the Dodgers evaluated the market, spoke to agents, and found that the going rate for many players exceeded what they believed to be a responsible, manageable, and sustainable amount.

They were close to signing Justin Verlander and insist they won’t hesitate to strike a big deal later this winter, either for a free agent or a trade target if the right opportunity arises.

But in a winter of boisterous — and perhaps some reckless — spending, the Dodgers are hoping their reticence will eventually help them reclaim the sport.

“The one thing that’s stayed constant,” Friedman said of the team’s approach, “is putting us in the best position to win a championship while also keeping that window open as much as possible.”

Such messages date back to Friedman’s early years, when he was managing one of baseball’s most famous teams, when he was tasked with revitalizing a club burdened with a bloated payroll and a stuttering farm system.

As the team’s payroll decreased each season from 2015 through 2018, his ability to instead develop prospects and nurture big-league talent helped solidify the foundation for a new contender.

The Dodgers didn’t always sign top-flight free agents. But it did little to stop her transformation into one of the sport’s most consistent regular-season winners.

The postseason was a different story, as the Dodgers’ annual fall shortcomings were increasingly blamed on their ambitious moves the previous winter.

That finally changed in 2020, when the arrival of Mookie Betts preceded a long-awaited World Series championship — and became the first in a string of high-profile roster moves.

In 2021, they signed Trevor Bauer and then traded for Trea Turner and Max Scherzer at the close of that season. Last spring, they shocked the league again by luring Freddie Freeman after his departure from the Atlanta Braves.

In hindsight, Friedman argued this week that those moves — which helped push the club’s payroll past the league’s luxury tax threshold and to club-record highs of more than $280 million last season — were essentially the Dodgers’ efforts were to go all-in .

They tried to yank the window open a little more, hoping it wouldn’t suddenly slam shut.

The only problem: The Dodgers didn’t manage to bring another title or even a National League pennant to Los Angeles.

As this off-season began, they were at an awkward crossroads: really keep spendingYes, really big…or try to recalibrate to more sustainable levels.

So far, the Dodgers are opting for the latter. They’ve scrapped payroll and positioned themselves to roll back their luxury tax penalties. They’ve been holding onto a new wave of prospects who are now knocking on the door of the big league squad.

It’s not a strategy that comes without risk.

Though their 2023 team is likely already of playoff caliber — at the start of the offseason, Fangraphs’ ZiPS prediction still predicted the Dodgers would be a 91-win, first-place tram — the league’s other title contenders have further high-profile improvements made during this week’s flurry of free agent activity.

Shortstop Carlos Correa is a free agent after spending a season with the Minnesota Twins.

Shortstop Carlos Correa is a free agent after spending a season with the Minnesota Twins. It’s unlikely the Dodgers would try to sign him.

(Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)

The team will certainly be adding to the roster ahead of opening day, but likely not with superstar additions — barring a change of heart towards shortstop Carlos Correa, who they’re intrigued by but not expected given his involvement in the 2017 Houston Astros signing. theft scandal; or a sudden collapse of a pitching market now led by Carlos Rodón and Kodai Senga, who have also received interest from the Dodgers but are likely to receive offers above the team’s preferred price range.

Friedman defended the Dodgers’ approach this week, fighting off the idea that the team could benefit from another all-in approach.

“This is just not the sport where that reward is the same as in other sports,” he said. “The sustained success part comes — and we’ve seen in the last seven, eight years — [by] bring young, talented players into the mix.”

And as the Dodgers clearly believe, given their conservative approach amid the hustle and bustle of this week’s winter meeting activity, they are prepared not to keep spending at levels even their well-funded ownership group might not want to endure. Andrew Friedman explains Dodgers’ decision not to spend big

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