State of the Dodgers message

In what was undoubtedly an unpleasant but necessary evil, Dodgers president of Baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi met with a large gathering of reporters on Tuesday morning at Dodger Stadium for a post postseason Q and A session.

“I’m not sure I’ll ever really get over it or the disappointment at the end of any and every year,” said Friedman, when asked if he has gotten past the ending to what was arguably one of the best seven-game World Series ever played. “Obviously we came really close but fortunately, I guess, we can actually just kind of pour ourselves into the off-season planning … the staff’s contracts and we’ve got a number of key positions that we need to hire for, and so we’ve just been immersed in that. But obviously, it’s been really difficult.

“The one thing that I think has helped is just being around the guys, like the last few days guys come in and kind of cleaned out their locker, just how focused they are to get back to that,” added the 40-year-old Dodger executive. “That’s the conversation coming through the roof, it’s just doing everything they can this off-season to put themselves into a position to come into camp strong. We had a really good season and hopefully do again what we did this year.”

In their first press conference since the final game of the 2017 World Series, Dodgers president of Baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manage Farhan Zaidi fielded a variety of questions from the large gathering of media on Tuesday morning. (Photo credit – Jon SooHoo)

At the top of that ‘key positions’ list was potentially finding a suitable replacement for longtime pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, who recently hinted that he may be leaving his post after 13 seasons as the Dodgers pitching coach in search of a front office position However, Friedman dispelled that rumor and speculation on Tuesday morning when he confirmed that the 63-year-old Honeycutt would be returning in 2018.

“He was really energized going through the year. Talking to him during the World Series, from all of our standpoints we all have some unfinished business,” Friedman said. “Honey’s obviously been a part of our past success, and we look forward to him being a part of our success in 2018.”

To this point, the only ‘must-fill’ position in the Dodgers major league coaching staff is that of former Dodgers assistant hitting coach Tim Hyers, who was named as the new hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox last week. And though there has been no indication of who might fill Hyers’ spot, there have been rumors and speculation that 15-year MLB veteran second baseman Chase Utley might retire this off-season and perhaps take on a coaching role with the Dodgers next season.

“I think that’s probably a better question for Chase,” Friedman said. “My sense is that he’s still focused on playing. Obviously he added a lot of contributions for us this year. My sense is that’s still where his mind is, but that’s a better question for him.”

Although Friedman’s answer was clearly elusive, it came as no surprise. Utley just completed a one-year / $2 million contract extension, his third with the Dodgers since being acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies at the trade deadline in 2015. As such, he would have to negotiate a new deal to stay on in a potential coaching role and for unquestionably far less money.

There is no disputing that the soon-to-be 39-year-old Pasadena, California native and UCLA alumnus played a huge role in the development of 23-year-old Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager or that he was instrumental in Seager being named the 2016 National League Rookie of the Year, or that he has done the same this past season with likely 2017 NL Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger. The burning question is whether or not the man affectionately dubbed ‘The Silver Fox’ is ready to hang up his spikes just yet.

Realistically, Utley would probably have a difficult time landing anything other than a modest one-year deal as a back-up infielder, which makes the likelihood of him accepting a coaching role with the Dodgers all the more probable; this in spite of Friedman’s reluctance to come right out and say so.

And then there’s Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda, who was nothing short of spectacular late in the regular season and during the postseason out of the Dodgers bullpen.

“From our standpoint, in the last two years, Kenta has contributed a lot of the rotation,” Friedman said. “It’s not that easy to find guys who basically can take the ball every fifth day and contribute the way he has. That being said, in the playoffs obviously there was another gear.

“Kenta is special coming out of the pen,” added Friedman. “But our thoughts and mindset going into next season is he will go in as a starter who also has the capabilities to be a well above average reliever, and whether that at different points during the year, or hopefully we’ll be able to get to the postseason, and in that way I don’t know, but in that way we view him as a starting pitcher first and foremost.”

This is most definitely huge for the 29-year-old Senboku-gun, Japan native, as his eight-year / $25 million contract (which runs through the 2023 season) is chock full of performance bonuses based on the number of starts that he makes and number of innings pitched each season … and we’re talking serious performance bonuses here:

  • annual roster bonus: $0.15M for making active Opening Day roster
  • $6.5M annually in performance bonuses based on games started: $1M each 15, 20 GS. $1.5M each for 25, 30, 32 GS
  • $3.5M annually in performance bonuses based on innings pitched: $0.25M each for 90, 100, 110, 120, 130, 140, 150, 160, 170, 180, 190 IP. $0.75M 200 IP

Although initially acquired solely as a starter, Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda was absolutely brilliant out of the Dodgers bullpen late in the 2017 season and throughout the postseason.
(Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

With the 2017-2018 off-season only a week old (as of this writing), there are many questions yet to be answered moving forward for the Dodgers. But by every indication, it appears that the 2018 Dodgers team and their core of young players will very closely resemble that of the 104-win 2017 Dodgers team … and how can you not absolutely love that?

Is it time for Dodger baseball yet?

 

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One Response to “State of the Dodgers message”

  1. oldbrooklynfan says:

    The more this team stays the same, the better. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

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