Sports

As popular Dodgers exit, Stan Kasten reminds that it's about winning

Popular Matt Kemp, Dee Gordon leaving Dodgers, but Stan Kasten thinks winning is fan favorite too

SAN DIEGO — The Dodgers open the 2015 season at Dodger Stadium, against the San Diego Padres. The cheers will be long and loud for one of the Padres' outfielders, a guy by the name of Matt Kemp.

The Dodgers dispatched two of their most popular players — Kemp and second baseman Dee Gordon — in their frenzied makeover this week. Their major league roster got older, and not necessarily better.

The Dodgers won 94 games last season, more than all but one club in the National League. Of the first five batters in the Dodgers' lineup in their last playoff game, three — Gordon, Kemp and shortstop Hanley Ramirez — are gone.

So is General Manager Ned Colletti. In his place, Andrew Friedman and sidekick Farhan Zaidi made 10 trades in 26 days. In a 24-hour span at the winter meetings, the Dodgers agreed to five transactions involving 16 players, two of whom were acquired by the Dodgers and flipped elsewhere.

The Dodgers are not done. There is a starting pitcher to come, probably another outfielder to move, infield depth to move, and you can never have enough pitching depth. The changes are dizzying — in pace and sheer numbers — but Dodgers President Stan Kasten said he believes the fans will support the moves as long as the team wins.

"I think fans are going to respond if we give them a good team," Kasten said Thursday. "We think the changes we have made and the changes we still have hopes of doing this winter will give us a really good team and a great chance to win, starting with the division and hopefully more than that."

Friedman came from Tampa Bay and Zaidi from Oakland, two markets where financial restrictions mean player turnover is a way of life. Kasten said he does not want Friedman and Zaidi spooked into keeping popular players if the two believe the Dodgers can be improved by a trade.

"I have told them not to concern themselves with the business aspects, like ticket buying," Kasten said. "Their job is to make the best team we can have, both for this year and the long term. We will take care of the business stuff."

The Dodgers led the major leagues by selling 3.8 million tickets last season. David Siegel, vice president of ticket sales, said this week the waiting list to buy season tickets is more than 3,000.

"We know we are going to have a high payroll, presumably the highest in baseball," Kasten said. "That's because of the support we have had."

Many of those fans wore Gordon jerseys, or Kemp jerseys, or Ramirez jerseys. The Dodgers, unlike Friedman's former employers with the Rays or Zaidi's with the Athletics, could afford to keep any of those three players — or all of them.

"We can't ever afford not to have the best team we can have," Kasten said. "Everything we have done so far, and everything we hope to do, is about getting the best team."

Kasten said fans should judge the Dodgers on how many games they win, not on their track record for retaining popular players.

"We think that is the best metric for how we are doing," Kasten said. "Even then, it's about what we build as an organization, long term. That continues to be the most important thing to me. I like what we have been able to do in the 2 1/2 years. I feel better today about the future of the organization than I have since the day I got here."

On April 28, 2012, the Angels called up Mike Trout for good. Since then, the Angels' player development system also has delivered starting pitchers Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker, outfielder Kole Calhoun and first baseman-designated hitter C.J. Cron.

Three days after Trout landed in Anaheim to stay, Kasten and the Dodgers' new ownership group took control of the Dodgers from Frank McCourt.

"Since I got here, we haven't yet graduated an everyday position player or a starting pitcher to the major leagues," Kasten said. "How about that?

"Now you can see the beginning. Joc Pederson would be the first, if he makes the team. We hope that will begin to be evident. That is the goal. That has always been the goal. But isn't it amazing, three years now, we still haven't had one?"

The Dodgers probably would have Nathan Eovaldi in their rotation had the new owners not included him in the trade for Ramirez. Pederson is expected to start in center field next season.

Even in this flurry of trades, the Dodgers have insisted on not dealing their top three prospects — Pederson, shortstop Corey Seager and pitcher Julio Urias — while adding four more prospects.

"We have made real progress on both goals — a better team for this year, and a deeper, better, more useful, more versatile player pipeline," Kasten said.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Twitter: @BillShaikin

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
75°