Zaidi excited to be part of Dodgers' team
New GM to work collaboratively with Friedman, Byrnes
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers not only have a new general manager, they have a new definition of general manager.
Farhan Zaidi was given the title Thursday, but at his introductory press conference Friday it was clear the lines have blurred on the autonomy once associated with that position.
"For me," said Zaidi, "this opportunity wasn't about coming here to be a general manager, but the opportunity to be part of the vision of Stan and the organization. There's such a great amount of potential, that's what excited me."
In his restructuring of the front office, club president Stan Kasten has brought in Andrew Friedman as president of baseball operations, as well as another former GM, Josh Byrnes, as senior vice president of baseball operations, and now Zaidi.
So, who's in charge?
"Baseball operations, Andrew is the point man of all that and that's the M.O. for the rest of us," said the 37-year-old Zaidi, who came to the Dodgers after 10 years with Billy Beane and the Oakland A's. "This is a big operation. He needs a lot of help. I see me focusing on the Major League club and Josh focusing on scouting and player development. There's a lot of room to share across those responsibilities."
Friedman said his top two lieutenants will "touch everything" to be "as good as we can be in all facets as quickly as we can be" in what Zaidi described as a "collaborative and collective" front office without "silos," as he experienced in Oakland.
With the General Managers Meetings starting next week in Phoenix, Friedman and his staff will strategize over the weekend with an immediate focus on the Major League roster, although Zaidi acknowledged he's inherited a back-to-back division winner from predecessor Ned Colletti.
"We start from a good starting point," he said, before sidestepping a question about what the Dodgers need to get to win a World Series. "To be honest, this is my first day on the job. ... It's not really a question I feel fully prepared to answer right now."
He's pretty happy, though, about working with manager Don Mattingly. Zaidi, the first Muslim GM, said his idol growing up in the Philippines was the Yankees first baseman that now calls him boss.
"I told him how much I idolized him," Zaidi said. "I don't think he'll ever see me as a position of authority. I had a great conversation with him. I told him, this is your team and you know the players and personalities as well as anybody. The knowledge that he and Ned have will be an invaluable resource for us."
That said, he understands the expectations of a team with a record-setting payroll, purchased for a record-setting price, with a fan base spoiled by vast entertainment options and frustrated with a 26-year championship drought.
"I know how we are going to be judged, by how the team performs on the field and subject to the high expectations of Stan and ownership and the fans," Zaidi said. "We're going to judge ourselves by the very same high standards."
Zaidi, like Friedman and Byrnes, came to the Dodgers from a small-market club where "we were always fighting an uphill battle." Although they now have the vast resources of the Dodgers and Guggenheim Baseball Management, he said it's inherent "in the DNA" of the new management team to "create a roster that can be sustained over the long run."
"We're the Dodgers, with incredible resources and high expectations," he said. "We need to be the best of everything. We need to do everything at the absolute peak level."
All three new executives arrive with backgrounds strong on advanced analytics, but the Dodgers had quietly shifted dramatically in that direction over the past year anyway with the encouragement of Kasten.
"My background is scouting, but I wanted more analytics when we came in," said Kasten. "Now we are on the way to proficiency in analytics, so I'm reminding everyone of the importance of the wise-old owls, more scouts, more scouts. We require all of the input to be the best we can be."
Friedman said his new team is "well-rounded" and argued that to "pigeonhole" Zaidi as a stat geek "is not doing him justice. ... People who focus on one to exclusion of another ... are not putting themselves in the best position for the organization."
Zaidi said he isn't intimidated by the presence of five former GMs in the organization -- Friedman, Byrnes, Colletti, Gerry Hunsicker and Tommy Lasorda.
"I think it's a great thing," he said. "One thing I've heard from a lot of GMs is that it's a really hard job. People think it's just trade player X for player Y; there's so much more to the job. Having them as a sounding board I think will be great. Andrew has a long relationship with Hunsicker. I had a great exchange with Ned. Stan brought it up -- you can't have too much experience. I'm thrilled to be part of it and to work alongside them."
Friedman said that as competing general managers, he became friendly with Byrnes and envisioned one day working with him, having assigned him the player development system that probably needs the most work. He said he didn't know Zaidi as well, but praised him for having "an incredible mind for the game and the ability to connect with and inspire people." Friedman said Beane "could not speak more glowingly of him."
Friedman declined to discuss what areas of the organization he feels need the most immediate improvement or how he would improve the bullpen. He wouldn't put a timetable on top prospect Corey Seager's Major League arrival, but insisted Seager "will not move off shortstop right now."
Friedman said the Dodgers have not heard from free agent Hanley Ramirez about whether he would accept or reject the club's $15.3 million qualifying offer. Ramirez -- who removed any reference to "Dodgers" from his Twitter account -- must decide by Monday.