Andrew Friedman, not Farhan Zaidi, sauntered into the Parlor room at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa at 2:10 p.m. Tuesday to represent the Dodgers in the first of the general managers meetings’ two league-mandated media sessions this week. It was the first time Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, had drawn the assignment since his first offseason with the Dodgers in 2014. Zaidi, the club’s general manager, spoke for the organization at this event the previous three years.
But Zaidi was not the Dodgers’ general manager for much longer.
In the latest twist in a chaotic young offseason for the Dodgers, Zaidi accepted an offer to become San Francisco Giants’ president of baseball operations Tuesday night. Friedman declined to comment on the situation hours earlier, but he confirmed the Dodgers would not block Zaidi from pursuing the job and Zaidi was not at the GM meetings with the Dodgers’ contingent.
“It’s one of those things that happens in the industry and feels like it’s happening more to us, but, again, we wouldn’t feel comfortable with the alternative of not allowing [people to leave],” Friedman said. “Nor would we stand in people’s ways. I guess it’s just the way things play out when teams have success. So I guess I’d rather have this every offseason.”
Zaidi, 41, joined the Dodgers in November 2014 shortly after Friedman was hired following 11 years with the Oakland Athletics, the Bay Area’s other club, where he became one of baseball’s most sought-after minds. The Dodgers brought on Josh Byrnes as senior vice president of baseball operations at the same time after stints as general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres, making him an obvious candidate to replace Zaidi. But Byrnes is believed to be comfortable with his current role and may not desire to become a general manager again.
The uncertainty surrounding the club’s brass doesn’t end at its general manager vacancy. While Zaidi was mulling moving north to run the Dodgers’ chief nemesis and leaving Friedman to replace his top lieutenant after a successful four-year run, Los Angeles has been in discussions with manager Dave Roberts on a new contract that would keep Roberts with the club beyond the 2019 season.
“So far, since our last game,” Friedman said, “I’ve been more of an HR director than anything else.”
The Dodgers have until Wednesday afternoon to exercise a $1.1-million team option in Roberts’ contract for 2019. The two sides could agree to a completely new deal or an extension on the option year before the deadline, or the Dodgers could pick up the option and the parties could work on a long-term contract after the deadline.
Last week, Friedman said he expected a resolution. His assurance didn’t waver Tuesday.
“We still remain confident and optimistic,” Friedman said, “and when we have something to announce we will.”
Roberts, 46, has led the Dodgers to the National League West title and the National League Championship Series in each of his three years at the helm, and to the World Series the last two seasons. He carries a 287-200 regular-season record in his three years. He is seeking a four-year commitment, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, after signing a three-year deal with the team option for a fourth season to replace Don Mattingly in November 2015.
A relevant measuring stick could be the four-year, $12-million contract extension the Houston Astros gave A.J. Hinch — Roberts’ close friend — in August after he led the team to a World Series victory over the Dodgers in 2017. Hinch’s previous deal was also set to expire after the season with a team option for 2019. The new contract is guaranteed through the 2022 season.
If he returns, Roberts will have a different coaching staff after third base and infield coach Chris Woodward became the Texas Rangers’ manager over the weekend and the Cincinnati Reds hired hitting coach Turner Ward as their hitting coach Tuesday.
The Dodgers were first in the National League in home runs, second in walks, third in slugging percentage and fourth in on-base percentage in Ward’s three seasons in Los Angeles. Friedman indicated part of the reason Ward decided to make the lateral move — to a club that has struggled in recent years — was to work closer to his family and home in Alabama.
“He’s been a big part of what we’ve done the last few years and fortunately we have a number of really talented guys in-house as well,” Friedman said. “We’ll try to figure it out and we wish him nothing but the best.”
The obvious internal options are assistant hitting coaches Brant Brown and Luis Ortiz, both of whom joined the organization last December. Friedman confirmed the rest of the coaching staff — Brown, Ortiz, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, first base coach George Lombard, and bullpen coach Mark Prior — are under contract for next season.
Turnover in the coaching and front-office ranks isn’t foreign to this regime. The Dodgers lost director of player development Gabe Kapler, vice president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos, and bullpen coach Josh Bard last offseason, and chugged along to a sixth straight NL West title and second consecutive World Series appearance. But constant turnover challenges continuity and replacing Zaidi could be their toughest challenge yet.
“Obviously, it’s a compliment to our organization, the group that we’ve assembled,” Friedman said. “And on one hand, I’m really happy for these guys who are getting opportunities. On the other, it is challenging for employees. But with that comes opportunity for other people that we have in our organization that we feel can step up.”