LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fresh off another early playoff exit, the Los Angeles Dodgers overhauled their front office Tuesday.
They hired Andrew Friedman for the new position of president of baseball operations, while current general manger Ned Colletti will stay on in a new role as a senior adviser to team president and CEO Stan Kasten.
Friedman comes from the Tampa Bay Rays, where he was executive vice president of baseball operations for nine years after being hired at age 28.
The Dodgers initially said Friedman would be introduced in Los Angeles on Wednesday, but later canceled that.
“As I embark upon my next journey, I have only thanks and gratitude to the Rays organization and the Tampa Bay region,” Friedman said in a statement.
Kasten called Friedman “one of the youngest and brightest minds in the game today.” Friedman guided the Rays to four postseason appearances, including division titles in 2008 and 2010, while overseeing one of the major leagues’ lowest payrolls. He had been working without a contract.
In joining the Dodgers, Friedman will have baseball’s highest payroll at his disposal, one that rose to a record $256 million this year.
Friedman will report to Kasten, who said he had been engaged in serious talks with Friedman over the last week. The Dodgers were eliminated from the playoffs last Tuesday after losing in four games to St. Louis in their NL Division Series.
“It happened fast because our end happened fast,” Kasten said. “None of us were ready for our season to end. It caught us by surprise.”
Kasten said there will be more additions to Friedman’s staff, and he deferred to the absent Friedman on whether the Dodgers will have a new GM.
“That is up to Andrew,” Kasten said. “Whatever he needs to supplement, we’re all for it.”
He later said, “I expect to be involved in helping him.”
With Colletti sitting next to him at the stadium, Kasten explained why he made the change.
“It was us being able to do better, get stronger and deeper,” Kasten said.
Friedman is a former Wall Street analyst who joined the Rays in 2004 and worked as director of baseball development during his first two years. Under Friedman, the Rays posted the franchise’s first winning season and won the AL pennant in 2008 despite a $51 million payroll, 28th among the 30 teams.
The Rays finished under .500 in each of their first 10 years of existence before finishing above .500 under Friedman from 2008-13.
This season, however, the Rays finished fourth in the AL East at 77-85 after trading away ace David Price to the Detroit Tigers.
Rays manager Joe Maddon has one year left on his contract and could follow Friedman to Los Angeles. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has two years remaining in his three-year deal.
“You should expect Donnie to be here,” Kasten said. “That’s my expectation.”
Kasten said the Dodgers did not compensate the Rays to get Friedman, whose ability to understand the analytics that have transformed baseball proved attractive. Kasten said the team wants to “ramp up” its use of analytics.
Colletti appeared gracious in endorsing the hiring of his longtime friend. He and Friedman made some of their first trades as GMs of their respective teams to each other.
“He’s a tremendous addition to this group,” Colletti said. “He brings another view, a successful view. He has a great analytical mind.”
During Colletti’s nine years as GM, the team reached the postseason five times and won four division titles, but had early playoff exits the last two years against St. Louis. The Dodgers’ latest defeat triggered speculation that Colletti’s job was in jeopardy, which Kasten emphatically quashed.
“That’s just silly,” he said, his voice rising. “It’s not even about this season. It was a good season. It was purely about what we’re doing overall, our big picture, to make our front office the best it could be.”
Colletti received a new contract for his new job. “Ned has done so much good work while he’s been here,” Kasten said.
Kasten said Colletti’s knowledge and experience will be an asset as the Dodgers continue to build their farm system, which was gutted under former owner Frank McCourt, who drove the club into bankruptcy before being forced to sell one of baseball’s glamor franchises.
Colletti said his new role involves helping Kasten and Friedman, although it has yet to be clearly defined. He rejected the suggestion that he had been demoted. Kasten called it “moving aside.”
“A lot of times in these situations pride and ego get in the way. I refuse to do that. I believe in the organization,” Colletti said.
He noted that his nine-year tenure was long, “especially these nine years because it hasn’t been smooth as glass,” an obvious reference to McCourt’s tenure when Colletti was handcuffed financially in trying to improve the roster.
“I look forward to this franchise being the greatest,” he said.