The Dodgers hired Friedman after the 2014 season, trusting him to find Rays-style bargains to complement their big — but responsible — spending. Sticking to that plan made it easy for the Dodgers to spend so lavishly on Betts: The combined value of Friedman’s three most lucrative deals for the Dodgers before Wednesday’s — with Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner — is about $237 million, or less than two-thirds of what the Dodgers now owe Betts.
Friedman has made bad deals, too, but nothing that hamstrung the Dodgers from affording a contract like this. Players like Max Muncy and Chris Taylor — afterthoughts for other teams — became cost-effective contributors. The farm system nurtured players Friedman inherited, like Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and Julio Urias, and developed more, like pitchers Walker Buehler and Dustin May and catcher Will Smith.
“We’ve done a really good job of identifying when players reach the point of being ready, and that last mile — what has allowed us to be as successful as we’ve been — has been our clubhouse culture at the major league level,” Friedman said, crediting Manager Dave Roberts and the coaches. “They do a tremendous job of instilling it, and then our players carry it out unlike anything I’ve ever seen. When young players come up, our veteran players actively try to help them acclimate.”
Along the way, Friedman has sometimes frustrated Dodgers fans by resisting splashy free-agent investments or refusing to deal prospects in trades. In-season deals to acquire Yu Darvish and Manny Machado helped, but only to a point; the Astros hammered Darvish in the 2017 World Series, and Machado hit .182 against the Red Sox in the 2018 World Series.
Darvish and Machado left as free agents, but the Dodgers decided they did not want to risk losing Betts after a 60-game cameo. Friedman was just waiting for the right investment to come around.
“Patience isn’t necessarily a virtue of mine, but we’ve had to kind of practice it throughout this — in that, if you’re going to make a bet like this, you want to feel as confident as you can about the human, about how much they care, about their work ethic, and I can’t imagine feeling more confident than we do about Mookie,” Friedman said.
“So that helps, but also us staying patient and doing things to help us in the short term — but not necessarily costing us in the long term — has provided us some flexibility to be able to do that. Obviously we’re really excited with how it turned out.”