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Dodgers Off-Season: Friedman, Roberts, Ryu; What Comes Next?

The way too early questions that Los Angeles will face this Winter.

02 May 2012: New Dodgers owners of Guggenheim Baseball Management, LLC - (from left) Stan Kasten, Mark Walter, Earvin Magic Johnson, Peter Guber, and Todd Boehly during the press conference to introduce the new owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images)

After a wholly unexpected first round exit in the playoffs, the Dodgers miss playing for at least the National League pennant for the first time since 2015. I don’t know what to do with added free time barely 10 days into October. There’s no saying that even the Dodger front office knows where to begin either.

Nevertheless, the off-season essentially begins now.

Sure, for baseball it technically doesn’t start until the completion of the World Series, but the brain trust will no doubt already be hard at work plotting and planning for the 2020 season.

While everyone will look at players and on-field personnel as the starting point, the first question actually starts at the head of the brain trust…

Andrew Friedman

The Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman came to Los Angeles in 2015. Friedman was famously plucked from Tampa Bay for a lot of money over a 5-year deal. That deal is now approaching its end date.

After a winning a franchise record 106 wins in 2019, it was a foregone conclusion that Friedman and the organization would come to a new deal. Under his direction, the Dodgers have reached new heights and levels of stability that quite possibly have never been seen.

Some may argue in favor of the late ’40’s, early ’50’s Dodgers instead.

While ending September win 106 wins lets you hold you head up high, the sucker punch of a 2-3 first round exit brings you back down to earth in a hurry. And with that, now Stan Kasten, Mark Walter, and the rest of ownership may consider reevaluating some pieces.

Complacency gets you passed up in this game.

Moreover, Andrew Friedman may in fact consider reevaluating his own position with the club, and the mental state that degrades with running a big market franchise like the Los Angeles Dodgers.

So step one this off-season? You better believe that it is Andrew Friedman.

Dave Roberts

Doc has a contract. He and club came to an agreement on a 3-year deal this past off-season, despite back-to-back World Series losses. While Dave Roberts is a great man, and a wizard at keeping a clubhouse together — no one could have survived having Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and a lack of playing time in the same room the way Roberts did — but there comes a point where you wonder if that’s enough.

What Dave Roberts offers as a good guy and locker room buddy, he continues to display what he lacks with in-game tactics. I won’t break down any NLDS game 5 decisions here because I plainly can’t handle that right now, but they appear to be the same style moves again and again.

So, in regards to Doc’s off-season status, he’s under contract (and technically shouldn’t be part of this article), but with Friedman’s status in question, so too would the manager’s status be. A new front office would almost always want new field staff of their own choosing.

Players

As we move down to on-field product, many tough questions will follow. First and foremost, before making decisions on any free agents — particularly any starting pitchers — you need to dig in to how ready you think some of the up and coming rookies are.

Did Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin earn their 2020 stripes?

Beyond the rooks, what role will Julio Urias, Ross Stripling, and Kenta Maeda play next season? Will Caleb Ferguson resume starting in the minors?

Walker Buehler will lead the rotation. And yes, Clayton Kershaw will be back for his 13th big league season.

There we list 8 names for 5 spots… and we’re missing two big names from the 2019 season.

Hyun-Jin Ryu

The NL Cy Young hopeful is a free agent at the conclusion of the World Series. He’s career arc has gone from “ace 1c” alongside Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, to injured and forgotten, to 2019 NL All-Star.

Now he’s 32, going on 33, and heading into MLB for the first (sort of second) time in his career. Over his last 44 starts spanning the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Ryu has gone 21-8 with a 2.21 ERA in 265 innings pitched. he led the team in ERA, innings pitched, WHIP and other lesser stats.

A guy like that is not easy to replace.

As much as he loves Los Angeles, and LA loves him back, this will be his first and only opportunity to cash in on a lucrative contract in free agency. He pitched on a $17.9M qualifying offer deal this season, and he’s earned a raise from that.

The Dodger handbook says they don’t hand out deals to players into their mid-to-late 30’s and with Ryu likely aiming for a 4-5 year deal, he would be 37-38 by the end of that. However, there’s no saying how long the Korean native wishes to continue pitching in the states while embarks on fatherhood for the first time.

We want Ryu back, and no doubt he would love to return… but it just might not be in the cards.

Rich Hill

If you have a soul, you were crushed by Rich Hill’s post game interview. The man fought back tears — most of the team, really — that were partly about the weight of the moment, but also about his unsure future in baseball.

Richie battled back from a malady of injuries in 2019 only to toss 2.1 innings in the postseason. With that, he still did what was expected of him and kept his team in the game. As the carpet now gets pulled out from under him, ahead lies very murky waters.

Hill will be 40 years old by the time next season rolls around. While he’s great for this team on paper, and a fantastic locker room piece, there’s pause when looking at forking over money to a soon-to-be 40 year-old with a recent history of injury issues.

He says he hopes to be back and that “it’s been an honor” to wear the Dodger uniform, and there is no doubt that the feeling is mutual.

Where he fits in for 2020 is as a bridge and emergency blanket for rookie arms like May or Gonsolin. The Dodgers are not usually ones to hand the keys to a spot in the rotation to bodies with less than 10 career starts under their belt. Moreover, this franchise has built its success on depth and sustainability.

One of Ryu or Hill could return, but definitely not both.

David Freese

Our dear step-dad. Freese stepped into the Chase Utley sized hole in the locker room and filled in with flying colors. But he’s a man with mileage under his belt. Freeser was talked out of retirement last off-season, but murmurs are that this is it for the 36 year-old.

Orel Hershiser spoke about the feeling of “let down” on SportsNet LA’s post game show following the loss. Bulldog had been before where Clayton Kershaw was after the game. You feel you let your team down; you let everyone down, and you’re ready to wear it.

Hershiser was part of the 1997 Cleveland Indians team that went to the World Series and lost to the Florida Marlins. Bulldog was 38 but still an ace of the Cleveland staff. The man that put the Dodgers on his back in the 1988 World Series allowed 13 earned runs in 10 innings, losing twice in the series.

Where Kersh and Orel separate is that 55 has an ’88 ring to look at and help him with the let down of ’97.

As we double back to Freese, the veteran clutch master has a ring to look back on. He’s fine to pack it up and walk away. And baseball will lose one of its finest.

Russell Martin

In 2017, the Dodgers still had Andre Ethier. In 2018 they brought back Matt Kemp. Both seasons the club made the World Series and lost. 2019 was supposed to be different. Russell Martin was back. The veteran backstop returned to where it all began after an eight year absence.

For the most part, he did what was expected of him. He provided steadying “veteran presents” for the club and found a powerful kinship with many of his teammates.

Now, he’s 36 years old and the 5-year contact he signed in the winter of 2014-2015 is set to expire. While he would be welcomed back with open arms, the Dodgers already have their starting catcher and backup catcher under contract. Will Smith and Austin Barnes will handle catching duties in 2020. Moreover, catching prospect Keibert Ruiz will make an impact in 2020.

While people would make the argument to see Martin re-signed as a relief option for the bullpen, the bodies are in place at catcher to see Russell walk (and possibly retire).

Kenley Jansen

This listing is more of a bonus round addition to the primary of this list, but there may be more meat on the bone then we think. Jansen has an oft-forgotten opt-out in his contract. The now 32 year-old can forgo the final two years and $38M of his deal (he won’t).

While all the cards are against him in finding more money on the open market, Kenley is an ego driven man. That ego took a big hit in the 2019 season. In a career worst season, constant questions about his role as closer came up as boo birds at Dodger Stadium grew louder and louder by season’s end.

While Dave Roberts came close, he never wavered in his crippling support of Kenley Jansen. And while most people wouldn’t risk that amount of money and security with so many red flags against them, Jansen’s ego could be the deciding factor in a shocking opt-out.

Jedd Gyorko

So I just found out that Jedd Gyorko has a $13M club option for the 2020 season.

His contract contains a $1M buy out, which I’m honestly not sure if the Dodgers or his former team the Cardinals are picking up, but either way that is highway robbery.

He will not be back.

Final Thoughts

This will be a long, painful, and arduous winter for the organization and fans alike. Trades will happen. Friends will leave. And everyone will complain about the front office not making any moves.

Buckle up.

Written by Clint Pasillas

Clint is the lead editor of Dodgers Nation, and a host and analyst on Dodgers Nation's own Blue Heaven podcast live stream.

He's been writing, blogging, and podcasting Dodgers since about 2008. He was there for Nomar, Greg Maddux, and Blake DeWitt, and he'll be there for Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo, Dustin May, and any Dodgers of the future.

He's also a sandwich enthusiast, a consummate athlete, and a friend.

19 Comments

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  1. want to hear a true idiot fan…purpledrank on twitter why so many people hate dodger fans, after Roberts announced Kershaw would relieve Buehler and the Stats say that Rendon does not hit lefty with sliders as well as other pitching, he sits on twitter making fun of people blasting the analytics the dodgers continue to use in the post season…because dave roberts said it was not about analytics….of course it was, dave covering for friedman and that is why he will not be fired.

    • Why does that name sound familiar to me? I feel like I’ve seen it somewhere other than twitter

  2. If the Dodgers want to win the WS they can. Dump the old guys and yes that means Kershaw and Jansen. If a signing doesn’t work out get rid of them too, Kelly and Pollock come to mind along with Taylor and Kiki. For god’s sake lose the dead weight and give the youth a chance, there’s a ton on the farm to mix with Buehler Lux Seager Pederson Turner and the rest. Pick up one of Betts and or Cole and case closed they are in without the stupidity of seeing Roberts, Kershaw or Jansen blow a game ever again. Pollock and Kelly just don’t belong they are a disaster. What’s so hard to see?

    • “Dump the old guys”.

      Do you think anyone in baseball would take on the contracts of Kershaw or Jansen? No. Do you think anyone wants Joe Kelly or AJ Pollock? Who do you think is going to pay those bills? This isn’t the NFL, where you can cut someone and not pay every penny due to them. LA wouldn’t trade Kershaw anyway. For all his problems, he won 16 games with an ERA of 3 this season. He’ll never be the immortal of 2011-2015 again, but no one else in baseball is close to that either.

      • Past accomplishments only count for the HOF. In current rosters, it’s “what have you done for me lately” that matters. Kershaw needs to compensate for his alarming drop in velocity at only 31 yrs. old by developing at least 2 more “new” pitches to add to his arsenal in order to be more like the Kershaw of old. Currently, IMO, he would be a number 4 or 5 starter going forward and a candidate to be left off of a future post season roster.

  3. If everyone can take a step back and take a “second look” on this current Dodgers lineup, what’s wrong with this picture?

    Answer: There is not one black hitter on this lineup.

    What the Dodgers need this offseason is to get at least one of those big powerful black players. This organization seems to want a “white boys only” lineup, that’s where they got burned – got burned by 3 powerful black hitters: Rendon, Soto, and Kendrick. You can not win in the big league without big powerful black hitters.

    It’s time for the Dodgers to stop discriminating against black hitters, this year it came back to bite them, just don’t let it happen again next year.

    • I hope you are joking. I really do. Do you think LA *cares* what color anyone is? Kendrick was here for a couple of years, and had all the look of a guy that was just done, hitting an empty .255 in his final LA season, back in 2016. Do you really want Yasiel Puig back next year, just because of the color of his skin? How about Matt Kemp?

      • Who hit the grandslam that won this year’s NLDS against the Dodgers?
        Howie Kendrick

        Who hit the 3 run home run in Game 7 of last year’s NLCS that sealed the victory for the Dodgers?
        Yasiel Puig

        Which is the only team in MLB that doesn’t have any black hitter on their lineup?
        Dodgers

        I guarantee you if Puig was still with the Dodgers instead of “white boy” AJ Pollock, he wouldn’t have gone 0 for 13 with 11 strikeouts in the NLDS, the Dodgers would have won the NLDS, we wouldn’t have all these angry fans right now.

    • First, Rendon is of Mexican decent – same as Verdugo. Second, The “discriminating” Dodgers have a Black owner (Magic Johnson) and a black manager. Third, the last thing the Dodgers need is more home runs.

      This is the team of Jackie Robinson and Fernando Valenzuela – the gold standard for diversity and inclusion.

      If you want to know where bigotry exists and why it continues, look in a mirror.

  4. What comes next? Nothing. Why?
    $8 billion TV deal, most attendance ever, season tickets sold, under luxury tax.
    Looks like just as Guggenheim ordered.
    Sounds like a business victory to me. You keep thinking this is about baseball. It’s business first and only, with a little baseball sprinkled in.
    The off-season will prove this.

    • Mike, Bingo.. Guaranteed 4 million, huge T.V, they have so much money they are dishing 148 mill into renovation. Almost as much as their roster. But they can’t afford to pay and buy some top Free Agents and give them long term deals. They will never win jack until they do. How much did Cole, Greinke, Verlander cost? More than the Dodgers will pay. Same old same old..

  5. As Bluto Butarsky would say (Animal House):

    Freidman, GONE!
    Roberts, GONE!
    Kelly, GONE!
    Jansen, GONE!
    Hill, GONE!

    Now, to go get those Germans for bombing Pearl Harbor…

  6. While both Rendon and Soto are definitely not white, they are not black either. They Hispanic or Latin if you prefer. They could use Rendon’s bat in the lineup, along with a healthy Verdugo.

  7. Friedman and Roberts are back. All the players you mentioned are gone. Maybe even Jansen because – unlike what you said – Roberts did “waiver” on Jansen, right at the end, when it mattered most. Time to see whether all the players we refused to trade for “difference makers” are indeed the future. We are still “competitive:” if not champions. That’s what the team management really values, making the playoffs and filling the seats. Winning just complicates things because then the fans would expect them to do it again.

  8. There is $$ coming off the books but it does not automatically mean the FO will do anything different when it comes to finding bargain basement players. The teams still standing in the PS are ALL way better than the Dodgers were offensively and in the pitching department. We saw an example of that in this year’s NLDS.

  9. YES , FRIDMAN, ROBERTS, POLLOCK, FREEZE, KELLY. FERGUSON, MARTIN, JEDD, WHITE,&SOME I CANT THINK OF RIGHT NOW. TRADE MUNCEY, CHRIST, KEEP MATT ,LUX ,KAKI, SEAGER, BELLI, PEDERSON, SMITH, BARNES, BULHER, RYU, KEEP OR TRADE CLAYTON, MADEA – BULL PEN ,SLADER, URIES,PEDRO, KEEP OR TRADE JANSON, WHAT THE HELL DID THEY NEED W/JEDD ,WHITE, & A FEW MORE.APPOX. 90 M. TOSSED. DO THE OWNERS LOVE THAT ? FRIEDMAN PAID WAY TO MUCH. TOSS FRIEDMAN & ROBERTS, NO WAY CAN HE MANAGE PITCHERS.

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