The Dodgers turned the page on their 2019 season sooner than expected with several questions to address in the frustrating aftermath. The two most prominent ones were answered Monday when Andrew Friedman, the president of baseball operations, confirmed that he and manager Dave Roberts will remain with the organization.
Friedman said he and the club will complete a contract extension “in the next couple of days.” His five-year, $35-million deal is set to expire at the end of the month.
“At this point, it’s just finalizing it,” Friedman said in a news conference at Dodger Stadium.
Friedman said he hasn’t decided whether he will hire a general manager to fill the vacancy Farhan Zaidi left when he departed in November to become the San Francisco Giants’ president of baseball operations.
As for Roberts, Friedman said he never considered dismissing the manager after his decision-making during the Dodgers’ stunning Game 5 loss to the Washington Nationals in a National League Division Series ignited significant backlash. Roberts has three years remaining on his contract. He will return for his fifth season.
“Frankly, I was surprised by the question,” Friedman said. “This was a team that won 106 games. ... Obviously, it was as painful a loss as I can remember, the whole thing is focusing on how we get to winning those 11 games in October and in our mind Dave is absolutely a part of that and is an additive part of doing that.”
Although Roberts will return, Friedman said Rick Honeycutt will transition into a “special assistant role” after being the team’s pitching coach for 14 seasons. Friedman said he expects that bullpen coach Mark Prior will replace Honeycutt, but the specifics “haven’t been worked out yet.”
Honeycutt, 65, underwent spinal fusion surgery in February. He reported to spring training only a few weeks later but dealt with constant pain throughout the season.
“Obviously, he’s meant a lot to this organization for a long time and he still will going forward,” Friedman said. “It’ll just be in a slightly different role that we’re still kind of working out the details on and I think fortunately we’ve been able to have Mark Prior around and have him build up relationships.”
The Dodgers hired Friedman in October 2014 after he served as general manager of the Tampa Bay Rays for nine years. The Rays played in the 2008 World Series, losing to the Philadelphia Phillies. Friedman was 28 when the Rays promoted him to general manager. He’ll turn 43 in November and is still seeking his first World Series championship.
The Dodgers have won the NL West in each of Friedman’s five seasons, extending a streak that began in 2013 to seven, and advanced to the World Series in 2017 and 2018, losing both times. The Dodgers’ 106 victories this season set a franchise record, but the team failed to reach the NL Championship Series for the first time since 2015.
“I can’t remember being around a group that was as committed to doing everything they could to win a World Series,” Friedman said. “Obviously, we did not do that. But from spring training into the season, throughout the season, it was a singular focus for virtually everybody in our clubhouse. It’s as good of a group as I’ve been around. Obviously, it wasn’t enough. Obviously, we’re not playing right now. But we share in that disappointment, frustration. It was heart-wrenching in a lot of ways.”
Friedman has maintained the Dodgers’ regular-season dominance despite reducing payroll. After the 2015 season, Major League Baseball penalized the Dodgers with a record $43-million luxury tax for a payroll near $300 million, an all-time record. The Dodgers opted not to spend big money on outside free agents the next year, instead re-signing three of their own: Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen and Rich Hill.
Friedman made moves at the trading deadline that helped push the Dodgers to consecutive World Series appearances, acquiring Yu Darvish in 2017 and Manny Machado in 2018 without parting with top prospects. This season, the team failed to make an impact trade at the deadline, refusing to deal top prospects Gavin Lux and others.
In the end, the Dodgers fell short of winning the World Series for the 31st consecutive season. They’ll attempt to end the drought again with Friedman and Roberts in place.
“I know going into the playoffs we definitely had a team talented enough to win a World Series,” Friedman said. “We didn’t do it. So for us, we have to figure out what we can take away from that. Not just to react but really look at ways we can get better and improve. And I think that’s important for everybody in that clubhouse, [and] in our front office, to do.”