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Dodgers pick up Roberts' option for 2019

Friedman 'optimistic' club will reach extension for manager
MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers exercised the 2019 option on manager Dave Roberts on Wednesday but will continue working toward a multi-year agreement, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said at the General Managers Meetings.

Friedman said he remains confident a deal will be reached, but he's "put negotiations to the side" to focus on time-sensitive issues like filling staff vacancies and negotiating with free agents. In the last week, the Dodgers lost general manager Farhan Zaidi to San Francisco, third-base coach Chris Woodward to the Rangers and hitting coach Turner Ward to the Reds.

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers exercised the 2019 option on manager Dave Roberts on Wednesday but will continue working toward a multi-year agreement, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said at the General Managers Meetings.

Friedman said he remains confident a deal will be reached, but he's "put negotiations to the side" to focus on time-sensitive issues like filling staff vacancies and negotiating with free agents. In the last week, the Dodgers lost general manager Farhan Zaidi to San Francisco, third-base coach Chris Woodward to the Rangers and hitting coach Turner Ward to the Reds.

"We exercised the option and we remain optimistic about working something out long term," Friedman told reporters. "The reason that we slowed it down a little bit is that we've had coaching staff decisions to make and interviews and it speaks more to the optimism that we have that something is going to definitely get done and it allows us to focus on what we need to near term.

"Player personnel decision are front and center right now. They have to be. And we have to figure out staffing and prioritize what to attack first."

Friedman said he was informed of Zaidi's decision Tuesday night. He praised his former general manager for creativity, work ethic and the ability to connect with people.

"He is very talented and obviously made a huge impact over the last four years," Friedman said. "If this was something he wanted to pursue, we were going to support him. It's something he could not have been more deserving of."

Friedman declined to outline what he is looking for in a replacement, but said he doesn't expect a dramatic change in the way his front office will work.

"We have very much a divide and conquer approach and it may change as far as emphasis with people doing other things, but I'm just not sure yet," Friedman said.

Roberts, who has guided the club to back-to-back World Series appearances, signed a three-year contract when he was hired before the 2016 season with an option for 2019. His salary from the previous contract had been estimated around $1 million annually, in the lower third among managers.

Last week, Friedman said he didn't see any potential obstacles in working out an extension for Roberts, who became the first Dodgers manager to reach the postseason in his first three seasons at the helm. His 287 regular-season wins rank sixth all-time for managers after their first three full seasons.

"We talked in Spring Training, made significant progress, but reached a point where focusing on the season was something we all wanted to do," Friedman said. "We agreed to table it and pick it up when we were done playing."

Roberts has a .589 winning percentage, the highest for any Dodgers manager since Charlie Dressen's .642 from 1951-53.

The 46-year-old played for the Dodgers and is their first minority manager, joining with former Dodgers teammate Alex Cora as the first opposing minority managers in World Series history last month.

The personable Roberts is the first Dodgers manager since Tom Lasorda in 1977-78 to guide the club to back-to-back World Series appearances. He's also been in charge for the last three of six consecutive National League West Division titles.

In his debut season on 2016, Roberts was voted the National League Manager of the Year. In 2017, when the Dodgers had the best record in MLB, he was a finalist for the award.

Roberts took over for Don Mattingly and embraced management's fondness for analytics to extract incremental matchup advantages, for which Roberts was criticized during the recent World Series loss to the Red Sox.

But he's popular, energetic and perpetually upbeat, a rare combination to go with 10 years of Major League playing experience. Having been undersized as a player and a cancer survivor, he doesn't lack for toughness, either.

He just finished the toughest of his three seasons, as the Dodgers fell 10 games below .500 and nine games out of first place before rallying to force and win a Game 163 for the division title, then beating the Brewers in a seven-game NL Championship Series before losing the World Series in five games to the Red Sox.

This year Roberts lost starting shortstop Corey Seager for nearly the entire season to elbow and hip operations, his entire starting rotation spent time on the disabled list, All-Star third baseman Justin Turner missed the first quarter of the season with a broken wrist and closer Kenley Jansen had a heart condition that will require a second operations.

Jansen update
Friedman said that Jansen would have his second heart operation in the next few weeks. Friedman also said the club believes Jansen's problems in 2018 -- including a shocking increase in home runs allowed -- were related to his mechanics, not his arm, and was probably impacted by a Spring Training hamstring injury that set him back.

Jansen has previously said his casual Spring Training program, in the wake of last year's demanding workload, probably led to the hamstring strain and was a mistake that would not be repeated. He added that he was hopeful the combination of the heart surgery and coming off medication for his condition would improve chances of a return to his previous form.

Friedman said the club is considering internal and external candidates for the third-base and hitting coach vacancies.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

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