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If the Los Angeles Dodgers don’t make another addition before opening day, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman is perfectly content with the roster he’s helped build.
Speaking to the media Wednesday after the Dodgers first official workout in Arizona, Friedman expressed supreme confidence in the players Los Angeles currently has under control, stating that they have “no weak spot” and could be “an elite team” in 2019.
Friedman’s comments aimed to set the bar high as the Dodgers embark on a critical campaign.
The Dodgers are heavily favored to win their seventh straight National League West title this season. But racking up regular season wins and division titles are no longer the goal in Los Angeles. Not after falling short in each of the last six postseasons, including their back-to-back World Series losses in 2017 and 2018.
Anything less than bringing home the franchise’s first World Series title since 1988 will be considered a bust this season, and Friedman wants everyone to know he’s confident this team is equipped to handle that task.
“You can go to Starbucks and get a coffee and your barista will tell you that you need more pitching,” Friedman said Wednesday, courtesy of ESPN. “Everyone has an opinion, and a strong opinion, which is great, because it speaks to their involvement and how much they care. But I think with that comes a lot of people who want certain things in that moment.”
“I feel like we have a chance to be an elite team, and I think we have a very well-rounded roster,” Friedman added. “It’s also got a number of core players that have won a significant number of games together. I think oftentimes that gets overlooked.”
Friedman’s final point is a valid one, but it’s who the Dodgers didn’t add to their core this offseason that has some fans feeling less confident. The Dodgers were never serious players in the Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sweepstakes. That doesn’t figure to change now even with both free agents still available. They also didn’t make any blockbuster trades to bring in a J.T. Realmuto or Corey Kluber-caliber player.
The Dodgers biggest addition was the signing of free-agent outfielder A.J. Pollock to a four-year, $60 million contract. While an excellent centerpiece for a new-look outfield that no longer includes Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, Pollock doesn’t come without his own concerns after playing more than 112 games just twice since 2013. As such, some believe it’s fair to question whether the Dodgers have done enough to truly cement themselves as an “elite” championship contender.
To that, ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez says, Friedman is responding by betting on several things that didn’t go as planned in 2018 coming back around. That includes a full season from Clayton Kershaw, who was limited again by injuries in 2018. That includes a full season from Kenley Jansen, who underwent a heart procedure and is down 25 pounds after his sluggish finish. And that includes any contributions from shortstop Corey Seager, who’s expected to be ready for opening day coming off Tommy John surgery.
More than anything, Friedman himself says he’s counting on consistency.
“A big focus for us this offseason was ‘How do you achieve more consistency?’ ” Friedman told the media on Tuesday. “I think the team last year was the most talented team I have ever been around. But for a host of reasons, some bad luck, some real, we weren’t as consistent. And I think a big thing for us is to avoid the games where we score zero, one or two runs. As often as we can, score three or more and we will win a lot of games doing that, especially with our pitching staff.”
When put into perspective, it’s easy to see why Friedman is confident. The Dodgers were three wins away from a championship last season despite a lot going wrong. But it’s also easy to see why some fear it won’t be enough. When the bar is to a championship level, it doesn’t take much to throw a team off course. And each unsuccessful vault undoubtedly stings more than the last.
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