Time is right for Red Sox to make run at Andrew Friedman

Rob Bradford
October 10, 2019 - 7:22 am
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Maybe the Dodgers and Andrew Friedman already have a handshake agreement. Perhaps this abrupt ending to the Dodgers' season will only motivate the President of Baseball Operations for last year's National League champs even more. There is also the possibility that the idea of leaving a good thing in Los Angeles to the uncertain existence of the Red Sox is simply a non-starter.

Fine.

But if the Red Sox don't make a Billy Beane-like push toward reeling in Friedman then they aren't going about this the right way.

We're not talking about asking or inquiring. We're talking about a full-court, let's make-a-movie-about-it courtship.

For whatever reason Friedman hasn't signed a new deal with the Dodgers, with 2019 serving as the final year of a five-year contract. All parties in Los Angeles have said the predictable things when asked.

“I love him, I think he’s done a great job, expect him to be here for a long time," Dodgers president Stan Kasten told the Los Angeles Times at the end of the regular season. "That’s all I really can say about it."

"Everything I hear is [a new contract> is imminent, that it will get done," Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts added just prior to the postseason. "And, for me, that is very exciting and that would be my expectation as well. For me, there’s no better executive in the game."

Roberts is right. There probably is no better executive in the game. So that's why if you're the Red Sox you're pushing your chips to the middle of the table.

Friedman built his reputation in the American League East, taking over the role of general manager of the Rays in 2005 before building a team that went toe-to-toe with the division's big boys with a fraction of the budget. He went to the Dodgers in 2014, inheriting a roster full of dead weight. It wasn't long before LA was going on its run of postseason appearances thanks to the marriage of money, prospects and the ability to stay ahead of the analytical curve.

Friedman's front office is full of familiar names to Red Sox followers, with former Sox execs Josh Byrnes (Vice-President of Baseball Operations), Galen Carr (Director of Player Personnel) and Dave Finley (Director of Amateur/International Scouting). Despite Wednesday's night meltdown, this is a group that has a good thing going. There is a farm system that is rated No. 3 overall by MLB.com and a roster that while sitting with the seventh-highest payroll isn't weighed down with untenable contracts.

It is Friedman, however, who has earned the right to be separated from the pack.

It's one thing to do it in Tampa with a small-market team with the hope that the same philosophies will carry over to a big-market club. But to be able to use the resources a team like the Dodgers have maintained, while successfully building enough of an infrastructure that allows for on-the-fly rebuilds, that's a rare commodity. It's exactly the kind of skill-set the Red Sox are starving for.

The knock on the Dodgers during Friedman's regime is that maybe they overthink things. Their analtyics department has had far and away more personnel than any team in baseball for some years now. It is a method that has led to more regular-season wins than any team in baseball not named the Astros over the past four seasons but also resulted in some odd postseason maneuvering.

Still, it's better to overthink than not think enough.

For an example of how Friedman approaches things one should go back to his courtship of Joe Kelly last offseason: Friedman personally hosted the relief pitcher for three hours, going into great detail how and why the Dodgers might view what Kelly had to offer in a different way than the player had ever heard. Biomechanical analysis. Approach with the catchers. How the Dodgers' view differed from all the other teams calling Kelly.

Now, maybe this was an example of the Dodgers thinking they were smarter than everyone else, leading to a contract offer that was one year more than any team offered. But the point is that Friedman was in the weeds with this stuff. He had a grasp on more than just scouting reports and positional needs. And more times than not that approach has led to important pieces of the Dodgers' foundation.

Beane was 40 years old when John Henry tried to pry him away from the A's. Friedman is 42. The energy, intelligence and foresight seem the same. But it's fair to say that the Dodgers' chief decision-maker is more of a sure thing than Beane represented back in 2002.

You never know unless you ask. They did it before with Mr. Moneyball and now it's time to do it again with Mr. Friedman.