SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Andrew Friedman has a history.
Since becoming the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations nine years ago, Friedman has signed a free-agent starting pitcher to a contract longer than three years just once – Brandon McCarthy got four years and $48 million to join the Dodgers just a couple of months after Friedman took over.
Friedman has committed more than $48 million to a free-agent starting pitcher just once with the Dodgers – when they signed Trevor Bauer for $102 million over three years. That did not work out well.
The other free-agent starting pitchers signed by the Dodgers under Friedman have largely been bargain-basement additions. Scott Kazmir signed for three years and $48 million in 2016. But Alex Wood ($4 million in 2020), Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney ($8 million and $8.5 million, respectively) and Noah Syndergaard ($13 million last winter) were all one-year commitments.
During the same time, the Dodgers have watched Yu Darvish, Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Anderson and Heaney become free agents and leave them for multi-year, big-money deals with other teams.
The Dodgers have avoided spending on free-agent starting pitchers because they didn’t have to, Friedman said, not because there is a philosophical principle against it.
“Yeah and until this year we’ve been first in baseball in production,” Friedman said accurately when reminded of his spending history at this week’s GM Meetings.
The Dodgers had the lowest starting rotation ERA in baseball four times in six years before last season and were second the other two years.
“We’ve made big offers on free-agent starters,” Friedman said defensively. “But up until this year, you couldn’t have better production. So it gets into how aggressive you are based on where you’re at from a talent-base standpoint. That changes year to year. The future outlook is different all the time and is something we’re constantly factoring into any and all decisions we make.”
The Dodgers’ approach to free-agent starting pitchers might have to change this winter as well.
Last season, the Dodgers’ starting pitchers ranked 20th in MLB with a collective ERA of 4.57. That was their first time over 4.00 for a season since 2007 and their highest since the war-time Brooklyn Dodgers of 1944 finished with a 4.78 ERA from their starting pitchers, the highest in the 16-team big leagues.
“It’s a priority for us,” Dodgers GM Brandon Gomes said. “We’re looking to add a starting pitcher or two and how that comes about is based on the trade market, free agency and balancing that with our internal options. But it’ll be something we want to do. I don’t think we’re unique to that. I bet you every other team is in that space, too, but that is our mindset right now and a priority.”
The top of the free-agent market includes presumptive National League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell (Padres) as well as Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola. Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto is expected to be posted by his team soon with hot pursuit by a number of MLB teams sure to follow.
None of the three is likely to sign for a deal less than $150-200 million and Scott Boras (the agent for Snell as well as free-agent left-hander Jordan Montgomery) said Wednesday he already detects “a frenzy for pitching” among teams this winter and Gomes’ “a starting pitcher or two” wish list was echoed from every corner of the Omni Montelucia Resort this week.
Friedman acknowledged that the Dodgers are more motivated buyers than they have been in the past.
“I think it would be reasonable to say that it would be more than it has been when we came off years of top production with returning the same (rotation) if not improving on that base,” Friedman said.
The trade market could also offer upgrades for the Dodgers with Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow and Chicago White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease the most accomplished starters expected to move (at the right price).
“I think the free-agent group around is talented as well as there are potential opportunities to explore the trade market, more so than there have been in years past,” Gomes said. “So I think there are different avenues to improve our team and make sure we have a high-quality starting staff.”
Left-hander Julio Urias was supposed to be one of the most highly sought-after free agents of this offseason. But he ended the season on administrative leave with his playing career in limbo after he was arrested on felony domestic violence charges on Sept. 2.
Urias was not required to appear in person for a court date on Sept. 27 and there has been no decision on whether charges will be filed. An MLB investigation is certain to result in disciplinary action against Urias who served a 20-game suspension in 2019 for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy.
“We have not heard anything from anyone involved in enforcement,” Boras, Urias’ agent, said Wednesday. “So we’re just waiting.”
Jason Bourgeois has been hired as the Chicago White Sox new first base and outfield coach as part of sweeping changes to the staff of Manager Pedro Grifol.
The 41-year-old Bourgeois spent the past five seasons as a baserunning and outfield coach in the Dodgers’ minor-league system.
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