Since Guggenheim Partners purchased the Dodgers a few years ago from a cash-strapped former owner who shall remain nameless, Angelenos have come to expect offseason fireworks each winter, especially given the sharply increased expectations that come with record-breaking payroll numbers. After losing Zack Greinke to free agencyand failing to land any players of significance so far this winter — not to mention the failed deals for Aroldis Chapman and Hisashi Iwakuma — local fans have grown increasingly frustrated with the inactivity of the analytically inclined front office of Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Josh Byrnes.
The frustration is understandable, but Ken Fisher would likely contend that the team’s approach is a shrewd one that considers both short- and long-term consequences. It seems that the Dodgers have observed the troubles encountered by past teams that have been saddled with sizable long-term contracts with aging superstars who are unable to contribute in the way that was originally expected. The New York Yankees endured this problem after flexing their financial muscle in the early 2000s, and rebuilding the team while having to carry aging players on big contracts proved quite difficult. Further complicating matters was the lack of human capital in the form of prospects, as promising minor leaguers are necessary in order to make trades and to replenish the major league roster.
The Dodgers have demonstrated a great deal of restraint, and it is clear that they are unwilling to overspend to get the players they have targeted in free agency. Fans of the team are certainly feeling the sting of missing out on players like Johnny Cueto and other high-dollar free agents, but the team still has the flexibility, the finances and the prospects necessary to make the moves they judge to be sound and in keeping with their goal of competing in the present without mortgaging the future.
For all the praise the Arizona Diamondbacks have gotten for going “all-in” with their offseason plan, there is a great deal of risk that the approach is incredibly short-sighted and will lead to an impossibly difficult rebuilding period within the next three years. The Dodgers, on the other hand, have positioned themselves for long-term success by favoring a strategy that includes developing young players while seeking to acquire major-league talent via free agency and trades that do not cripple the team’s chances for continued success into the future.