The big news today is that the Los Angeles Dodgers have hired Andrew Friedman away from the Tampa Bay Rays.
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) October 14, 2014
Friedman is one of the best executives in the game, making the Rays a contender in almost every year since 2008, all while having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. Since the 2008 season, the Rays have 627 wins. That is one behind the Cardinals and Angels, and ranks fourth behind the Yankees, who lead baseball with 648 wins in that span. The fact that all of those teams trump the Rays in payroll every year makes this a phenomenal accomplishment.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers have practically unlimited money to spend. Their local TV deal gives them $280 M, and while they don’t get all of that money to spend on their payroll, it does allow them to out-spend every team in baseball, and gives them the ability to overpay on any player they want.
One of the best executives in the game, plus the biggest payroll in baseball means trouble. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pittsburgh Pirates get to see the downside to this combo in the upcoming off-season.
Currently, the Dodgers need a starting catcher. Russell Martin is the only starting catcher on the free agent market. He’s coming off a big year offensively, but his bread and butter is his defense, highlighted by his pitch framing. Under Friedman, the Rays prioritized pitch framing more than any team, except maybe the Pirates.
The Pirates signed Ali Solis as a minor league free agent for the 2013 season, and Solis was rated as one of the best pitch framers in Triple-A that year. The Rays signed him for the 2014 season. They signed Jose Molina, who is one of the best defensive catchers in the game, but not considered a starter at all. They also added Ryan Hanigan from the Reds for the 2014 season. Both catchers have been outstanding with their pitch framing skills.
So you’ve got an executive who clearly values catcher defense and pitch framing. And that executive has all of the resources needed to overpay on any player and not feel a thing if the deal goes bad. His team has a need at catcher, and the only free agent available to fill that need is exactly the type of player he tries to acquire.
Is there anyone who thinks that Russell Martin WON’T end up with the Dodgers now? They could make him a huge offer — fifth year, $17+ M per year — and wouldn’t have to worry about the percentage of their payroll that he eats up, or what might happen if his production falls off a cliff after year two or three of the contract. With the Dodgers’ need, and with Friedman’s preference, Martin makes total sense.