When you have something in your life that provides you with the very oxygen your soul needs to breathe, the days without it can seem endless. There’s something about the baseball season, especially its beginning: it awakens the senses, ignites optimism, renews friendships born of our common hope and aspirations for this team we love.
As the season gets going, as fans, we develop a routine which revolves around the Dodgers, one we hope lasts until the very last week of October: we work during the day, keeping an eye on the day’s events throughout, then watch the action on the field at night. Depending on our lifestyles, we may or may not get to see all games, but we always know what’s happening on and off the field, and often the promise that it won’t be long until the next time you see your Boys In Blue can get you through a rough day.
On weekends, there may be a few extra glasses of wine at home and a bit more silly banter on Twitter during games as fans socialize through social media. There’s an ebb and a flow, a comforting structure to it all, and even if the Dodgers are losing, we cling to the knowledge that there is always tomorrow.
Having this joyous baseball routine interrupted for 5-6 months each year is just one of many reasons why the off-season, quite frankly, is so deeply unpleasant. Fans on Twitter become restless, arguing about hypothetical roster moves (or food), we have nothing better to do than actually get a sensible amount of sleep each night, and the only Dodgers content we have access to is replays of the past season which are often too painful to watch until at least the first week of February. The league’s own MLB Network, normally chock full of content during the regular and postseason, becomes a steady diet of The Sandlot, Ken Burns’ Baseball, and the same minor headline being examined on five separate programs. They, and we, bide their time before baseball’s biggest off-season event…The Winter Meetings.
So what can we expect at this year’s Winter Meetings?
Since being hired by the Dodgers in October 2014, Andrew Friedman has created a culture built around teamwork and versatility while working to re-set the luxury tax rate. Many of his moves have been made at the Winter Meetings, and it stands to reason that many ideas have taken shape that week as well. As Marshall Garvey points out here, it’s impossible to know how many of these moves were Friedman-specific considering he had the brilliant Farhan Zaidi leading the front office with him.
Like any organizational change, each man acquired or traded away has proven to change the team’s culture and future, perhaps in ways we didn’t see clearly at the time.
Let’s take a look back:
It’s late 2014 and the Dodgers have recently been eliminated in the NLDS that then-manager Don Mattingly, somehow, managed to get them to amidst a rocky clubhouse occupied by players like known nemesis Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, as well as a former superstar turned diva whose name rhymes when Ranley Hamirez.
The Dodgers already ridded themselves of previous locker room menaces in Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez.
Could Yasiel Puig be next?
— Elite Sports (@elite_talk) July 21, 2015
Changing the culture needed to be the team’s top priority, and Friedman delivered in his first Winter Meetings with the Dodgers by obtaining, among others who would contribute to an improvement in the team’s culture, Jimmy Rollins, Brandon McCarthy, Enrique Hernández, Yasmani Grandal, Austin Barnes, and future World Series MVP (for the wrong team) Howie Kendrick.
Many Dodgers fans remember December 4, 2015 as the day the Diamondbacks stole Zack Greinke out from under their noses, and Friedman seems to remember it clearly, but this writer remembers it as the day that we found out officially that my childhood hero Tim Wallach was not returning to the Dodgers organization, part of a coaching staff overhaul that would bring the team into its next chapter with Dave Roberts coming on board as its next manager.
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) November 23, 2015
While there were no blockbuster trades like the year before, Roberts, who had been announced as the Dodgers’ next manager on November 23, 2015, was introduced during these meetings, in a move that proved to shape the team’s future for years to come.
Equally as important to the team’s culture and harmonious future relationship with its fans, this near-acquisition of Aroldis Chapman didn’t come to fruition.
The playoff exits (this year in the NLCS) are getting more painful with each passing year, born of the sharp increase in the “what might have been” factor with this talented roster that Roberts guided to its fourth consecutive NL West division championship. While Justin Turner and Kenley decide at the latter’s wedding that they will return (despite Jansen reportedly receiving a five-year, $80 million offer from the Miami Marlins), fan favorite Rich Hill signs a 3-year contract with the team and the team holds an emotional press conference to announce the happy news.
The fans, players, and front office all hungover after losing Game 7 of the World Series — by questionable methods we later learn — and nothing significant happens to beef up this already stellar roster. These winter meetings would prove to be better remembered for the available players they did not acquire.
The Miami Marlins firesale had the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna all available. Instead, the groundwork of Friedman’s first big salary dump was laid out at this winter meetings in Florida.
This is the salary dumpest of trades ever. Matt Kemp is back with the Dodgers, in exchange for all the contracts — Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy — and Charlie Culberson. And cash considerations of course
— Eric Stephen (@ericstephen) December 16, 2017
After a second straight World Series loss — albeit a series this team arguably had no business being in to begin with — the prevalent feeling among the fans is that changes are required. Thankfully, future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw didn’t leave us hanging and signed a new 3-year deal in November, but beyond that, there is still work to be done.
Murmurs of Los Angeles finally ridding themselves of Yasiel Puig are among the rumors throughout these meetings. While nothing in that regard comes to fruition during the week of the meetings, once again the groundwork for Friedman’s second big salary dump in as many seasons was undoubtedly made in Las Vegas.
Nevertheless, at the meetings — as well as during a Bryce Harper/Manny Machado saturated off-season — it proves to be a relatively quiet time for Friedman. The lone exception being the signing of Red Sox World Series hero Joe Kelly to an overpriced contract.
Source confirms: Joe Kelly has agreed to a deal with the Dodgers for 3 years and about $25 million. The Fight Club is going back west
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) December 13, 2018
The 2019 version of these meetings gets underway Monday December 9th in San Diego, and for the 6th year in a row, all eyes of this restless fanbase will be on Andrew Friedman. Many believe that the time is now to make a big splash or three to get this organization to the pinnacle.
Will it happen? Only time will tell.
So charge your phones and get ready to follow along at Dodgers Nation for all of the latest news coming out of San Diego this week. It’s sure to be a fun ride!