Andrew Friedman

Andrew Friedman announces he's staying with Dodgers, taking biggest name off board for Red Sox

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Andrew Friedman announces he's staying with Dodgers, taking biggest name off board for Red Sox

The Red Sox can cross the biggest name off their GM search before he was ever even an option.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman announced on Monday that he will finalize a deal to stay in L.A. "in the next couple of days." Friedman had technically become a free agent after the Dodgers' season ending in shocking fashion against the Nationals last week.

His five-year, $35 million contract expired, but the Dodgers moved quickly to lock up the 43-year-old, who has built consistent winners in both Tampa and Los Angeles and was considered the most intriguing candidate for the job of running the Red Sox, which opened up when the team parted ways with Dave Dombrowski in September.

With Friedman off the board and the Twins reportedly nearing a deal to extend Lynn native Derek Falvey as their chief baseball officer, the Red Sox have seen the candidate pool for their opening diminish before their search even starts. Before the season ended, the Diamondbacks took another name out of play by extending GM Mike Hazen, a Massachusetts native and former Red Sox executive. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein also declared his commitment to Chicago, though his contractual status hasn't changed.

One name that hasn't been taken off the board is Chaim Bloom, Tampa's VP of baseball operations. The 36-year-old Yale graduate oversees Tampa's baseball operations alongside Erik Neander, and the two guided the Rays to a wild card before taking the Astros to Game 5 of the ALDS.

Widely considered one of the most innovative franchises in the game, the Rays have reached 90 wins in two straight seasons despite fielding one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.

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The perfect Red Sox GM candidate just became a free agent -- Dodgers boss Andrew Friedman

The perfect Red Sox GM candidate just became a free agent -- Dodgers boss Andrew Friedman

The shocking elimination of the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLDS on Wednesday creates an opening for the Red Sox to pursue their white whale -- Andrew Friedman.

L.A.'s president of baseball operations is widely considered the shrewdest executive in the game, and he has built a juggernaut out west, with the Dodgers simultaneously cutting payroll and competing for World Series titles on an annual basis.

His contract happens to be up, and there's some unease about why he hasn't yet agreed to an extension. A couple of weeks ago, all involved expressed optimism to the L.A. Times that Friedman would return, albeit in less than absolute terms; president Stan Kasten said he was "pretty confident" Friedman would be back.

And if he's not? Expect the Red Sox to be first in line.

The 42-year-old cut his teeth over a decade ago with the Rays, becoming their general manager in 2005 at age 28 and building the 2008 team that beat the Red Sox in the ALCS to reach the World Series. Friedman worked wonders in the small-market setting en route to four playoff appearances before joining the Dodgers in 2014.

All he has done since is build one of the game's most sustainable success stories. L.A. has won seven straight division titles, first by spending limitless amounts of money -- their $291 million payroll in 2015 remains the highest ever -- and then by doing it in a way that should certainly capture the attention of Red Sox owner John Henry.

From that high four years ago, the Dodgers have steadily dropped, culminating in 2018, when they dropped below the luxury tax threshold with a $195 million payroll to reset their penalties. They barely surpassed the limit this year, checking in at about $210 million. That's where Henry would like to get the Red Sox, who hope to drop from $242 million to $208 million.

Friedman did it by building a powerhouse player development system that has produced stars like MVP favorite Cody Bellinger, All-Star right-hander Walker Bueller, and slugging shortstop Corey Seager. Friedman's Dodgers have also been opportunistic on the margins, adding stalwarts Max Muncy and Justin Turner for nothing after they were jettisoned by the A's and Mets, respectively.

The Dodgers are set up to maintain their success, too, with $113 million committed to next season, $89.5 million on the books in 2021, and only $20 million committed to 2022 (per Baseball-Reference). Compare that to the Red Sox, who have $118 million in guarantees committed to 2022 as part of a bloated payroll that's the reason they're seeking new leadership in the first place.

The Dodgers do not have a single player on a $100 million contract. Their highest-paid player is left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who signed a three-year, $93 million extension before this season. His two remaining years are eminently more manageable than, say, the five years for Chris Sale staring at the Red Sox.

In Los Angeles, Friedman built an All-Star front office featuring no fewer than five former GMs: Josh Byrnes, Alex Anthopoulos, Tommy Lasorda, Ned Colletti, and Gerry Hunsicker. He hired liberally from the Red Sox, stealing respected figures like Dave Finley and Galen Carr. He has built the Dodgers into an analytics-driven powerhouse, which is how they ended up on the forefront of the launch angle revolution.

Friedman has proven he can win with baseball's smallest payroll and its largest payroll. He has laid out a blueprint for shedding salary while remaining competitive -- his first act as Dodgers boss was to rid the organization of bloat like Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, and Dan Haren, acquiring young talent such as Yasmani Grandal and Kike Hernandez in return -- and it's hard to imagine a more qualified candidate emerging for the task now confronting the Red Sox.

The Dodgers could render this entire discussion moot by agreeing to an extension with Friedman tomorrow. But until that happens, consider him the most important free agent of the offseason if you're the Red Sox.

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Red Sox owners want a name with experience for their next GM; disagreement with Dombrowski dates to last fall

Red Sox owners want a name with experience for their next GM; disagreement with Dombrowski dates to last fall

BOSTON -- The next general manager of the Red Sox will come from outside the organization and have experience in the role, John Henry hopes.

The Red Sox owner laid out what he's looking for to take the organization forward in the wake of Dave Dombrowski's departure. He sounded unlikely, at least for now, to consider any of the four execs currently sharing GM responsibilities -- Eddie Romero, Brian O'Halloran, Zack Scott, and Raquel Ferreira.

That's in no small part because of the myriad challenges facing the franchise, from getting under the $208 million luxury-tax threshold, to dealing with the possible trade of reigning AL MVP Mookie Betts, to rebuilding the farm system.

"This is a tough job," Henry said. "This is a tough offseason, too. We talked about the challenges for the CBT [competitive balance tax], but I think we would all agree, there are a lot…this is a challenging offseason. So, to put one of the candidates you keep bringing up in charge and responsible for that, that's sort of a tough way to start your career as a general manager. So, we are starting the search looking outward."

Henry noted the difficulty of hiring GMs away from other franchises, but the Red Sox will be sure to inquire on a host of big-name candidates, whether it's Dodgers boss Andrew Friedman, Tampa's Chaim Bloom, or even Theo Epstein of the Cubs, who recently declared his allegiance to Chicago.

"We look at what some of the other teams are doing around the league," Werner said. "We want to be competitive with them in all facets."

As for the perception that the Red Sox lack stability, since they're about to hire their fourth baseball boss since 2011, Henry and Werner bristled.

"You know it's funny, I look at it as we've had three general managers since 2004, right? 2003, right?" Werner said. "I look at it as we've had three general managers in 17 years, right? So I don't look at that as -- not that we count but we have been successful bringing in a general manager from the outside and we've been successful by bringing in someone internally. But I consider, look, we all know Boston is an incredibly great sports town. It's also very demanding. We want to be excellent year in and year out. But I consider this position to be the most coveted or one of the most coveted in all of sports."

WHY DOMBROWSKI WAS FIRED
Henry talked about extending Dave Dombrowski the night the Red Sox won the World Series. He apparently had a change of heart by the time the Duck Boats started to roll.

It turns out the philosophical differences that led to Dombrowski's ouster predated the season.

"What changed quickly was right after the World Series, we had preliminary talks about our way forward and it was clear to me we weren't on the same page at that point," Henry said. "In fact, he and I talked about it that night, that Sunday evening, I think he disagreed with me about that, that we disagreed. We were even disagreeing, you might say, that we disagreed. There was a difference, I think, in how we thought we should move forward."

While Henry and Tom Werner went out of their way to praise Dombrowski's tenure, their issues weren't hard to discern: a bloated payroll that will hamstring the immediate future, and a lack of young talent coming through the minor league pipeline.

"One of the things that we talked about that I think is apparent is that we need to have more depth in our minor league system and more people coming up through the system that can be everyday baseball players," Henry said.

CORA STAYING PUT
One Red Sox employee who needn't worry about his job security is manager Alex Cora. Henry said the manager will return next year, no matter who takes over as GM.

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