Four things to know about Dodgers front office changes
The Dodgers haven’t been able to do much during MLB’s nearly two-month lockout, which has halted all major league player transactions and is threatening to cause delays to spring training and the regular season.
But this week, the team made news by announcing a series of front office personnel moves, highlighted by the promotion of Brandon Gomes to general manager that Gomes and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman discussed publicly Thursday for the first time during a video call with reporters.
Here are four things to know about the Dodgers’ front-office changes.
A ‘special’ promotion for Gomes
After Gomes’ first season working for the Dodgers as a pitching coordinator in 2017, another MLB club requested permission to interview him to be their pitching coach.
According to Friedman, Gomes said no thanks.
The next year, after Gomes oversaw the team’s farm system as director of player development, another club inquired about interviewing him for an assistant general manager opening.
Gomes once again passed.
And over the previous three years, following Gomes’ promotion to Dodgers vice president and assistant GM, there have been several more requests by teams looking for a general manager.
Each of them got the same answer.
“There aren’t a lot of people that you can say that about, that really are qualified to do so many different things,” Friedman said, bringing up the story unprompted at the end of the video call.
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“And I will say that at every turn, Brandon’s response was always the same, which is: ‘No thanks. I want to be with the Dodgers.’ ... So it makes it even that much more special today, to reward him in this way.”
Friedman reiterated that Gomes’ new position as GM will allow him to take on more responsibilities across the entirety of the baseball operations department, but Friedman didn’t give specific examples of how the work might be delegated.
“It’s not something that we’ve written down formally, ‘This is exactly what you’re gonna do, this is exactly what I’m going to do,’ ” Friedman said. “I think it’s just a partnership. I think things will change throughout months and years, and things will ebb and flow, and I think just through communication, we’ll figure out what makes the most sense at any given time.”
Said Gomes: “It’s very much a divide and conquer, and we’re gonna kind of let this play out naturally. We have such a talented group that we work with on a daily basis. It’s just putting everybody in the best position to succeed and go out and dominate an area so that collectively we’re in the best possible place that we can be.”
New titles, same group
While titles have changed, the hierarchy of the Dodgers front office remains relatively the same as it did entering the offseason.
Director of baseball operations Alex Slater was elevated to vice president and assistant GM. A former member of the scouting department, he has been involved with key decisions in recent seasons, including the team’s opener strategy in Game 5 of last year’s National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants.
Brandon McDaniel was given the title of vice president of player performance, after previously being director of player performance — a role that Friedman said “evolved in the last couple of years to really help on the assessment side, as well, in terms of player personnel decisions.”
Brandon Gomes was sent the minors 12 times during his five-year career with the Tampa Bay Rays. Those trips sparked his interest in front-office operations.
And other top executives, including senior vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes and vice president and assistant general manager Jeffrey Kingston — both of whom have been linked in reports in recent offseasons to other front office openings around the league — also remain in place, keeping intact a group that Friedman has praised as being “a very collaborative front office setup.”
The front office structure beneath Friedman now includes one general manager, one senior vice president, three VP/assistant GMs and five other vice presidents.
A new assistant GM
The one new addition to that group is Damon Jones, whom the Dodgers announced this week was hired as vice president, assistant general manager and baseball legal counsel.
Friedman said Jones will assist with negotiations as well as other areas of baseball operations, and that Jones had previously helped the Dodgers on an arbitration case a few years ago.
“He’s gonna bring some real baseball experience and baseball feel, which will be additive and really helpful,” Friedman said. “And then you couple that with his legal background, and a lot of things that come up for us on a daily basis, that background will also be really helpful.”
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Jones comes to L.A. after spending the last 14 months with the NFL’s Washington Football Team, where he was instrumental in its efforts to remake the front office and search for a new stadium, according to the Washington Post.
Jones also has a long history in MLB, having previously spent nearly 13 years as a senior vice president for the Washington Nationals — overlapping for several years with the club’s then-team president, and current Dodgers president, Stan Kasten — where he handled player contracts and collective bargaining issues.
Training staff changes
The biggest shakeup in this week’s announcements was seemingly to the training staff.
Thomas Albert was named the new head athletic trainer, taking over a role that had been held by Neil Rampe for the last six seasons.
Albert was previously the team’s assistant athletic trainer, joining the Dodgers in 2016 after spending the previous four seasons with the Cleveland Guardians.
Rampe, who came to the Dodgers in 2016 after spending the eight previous seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, is no longer with the organization.
Friedman said the team conducted an extensive search for its new head athletic trainer before ultimately deciding to stay in-house by promoting Albert. Friedman cited Albert’s existing relationship with players as an important factor.
“Obviously we’ve gotten a chance to watch Thomas firsthand over the last five or six years and the relationships that he has forged with players,” Friedman said. “We just felt like at the end of that process, he was the right person to lead that department.”
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