Sarah's Take: Trading Kemp to division rival risky
All teams in the National League West but the San Francisco Giants have a new general manager. These young college-educated men have new ideas on how to build winning teams. They are eager to leave their imprints on their new teams, so they are making changes fast and furious.
All teams are expected to make changes during the offseason, no matter how well a team did in the previous season. Every general manager dreams about making one simple acquisition that enables his team to win a World Series championship. This rarely happens since baseball is highly unpredictable, adding to its charm.
In my opinion, the main skill that a general manager needs to be successful is being good at analysis. Figuring out what his organization needs to win without spending too much money is what makes a good general manager. Brian Sabean of the Giants is an excellent general manager even though he doesn't get much media attention unless the Giants win the World Series. He has an adequate payroll but nothing exceptional. He believes in developing young players and giving them a chance to perform at the Major League level when they are ready. He trusts his manager's judgment on which players will help the team. Sabean and his relationship with manager Bruce Bochy are mainly responsible for three World Series championships in San Francisco since 2010.
While the Giants have stability in their front office, the rest of the teams in the division are searching for the right combination to have perennial success, maybe a World Series championship sometime. Other than the Giants, no NL West team has won a World Series since 2001, when the Arizona Diamondbacks shocked the baseball world by defeating the New York Yankees. The rest of the division wants some postseason glory.
The Los Angeles Dodgers desperately want to win a World Series. It has been 27 years since they have been to the Fall Classic. The new ownership that took over in May 2012 has spent a mind-boggling amount of money, and it hasn't given the Dodgers the desired result yet.
Although the Dodgers won 94 games last season despite having many injuries to important players, a poor bullpen and shoddy defense, they suffered a disappointment in the NL Division Series. They needed minor changes to be made to take the next step and make it to the World Series.
A few fans who regularly post on the Dodgers' website unfairly blamed Ned Colletti, the general manager from the autumn of 2005 to this October, for the NLDS debacle. Colletti remains in the organization in an advisory role, but the Dodgers have a new general manager and team president.
Many baseball people consider Andrew Friedman, who came to the Dodgers from the Tampa Bay Rays, as one of the brightest baseball minds in the game today. He helped to make the Rays a perennial contender in the American League East even though the Rays don't have a large payroll. The Dodgers understandably wanted this ability.
Friedman chose Farhan Zaidi from the Oakland Athletics as his general manager. The Athletics also are a low-budget team that usually contends in the AL West, so he should be an asset to the Dodgers even though he hasn't held this position before. Both Friedman and Zaidi are in their 30s and have good educations. Zaidi even has a Ph.D. in economics after going to Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Both Friedman and Zaidi don't know the NL and aren't used to having endless financial resources to spend on a team. They have been going crazy trying to shape the Dodgers into a team that they have envisioned. However, one of the old rules in baseball hasn't been followed, and it concerns me a lot. Teams shouldn't trade within their own division.
During the annual Winter Meetings, the Dodgers traded Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres. Entering the offseason, every baseball fan should have known the Dodgers wanted to trade one of their outfielders. Having four All-Star caliber outfielders, all of whom are under 34 and want to play every day, caused tension in the clubhouse and bloated the large payroll more than it should. Although most of the outfielders were injury prone and needed frequent rests, they couldn't see that they shouldn't expect to play every day.
Manager Don Mattingly thought the poor chemistry in the clubhouse and the selfish play of many Dodgers helped them to be eliminated early in the playoffs. The media jumped on this idea and ran with it. Blaming chemistry has become a popular excuse for unexpected poor performance. It isn't right, but it happens every day. Most baseball fans want to think baseball players get along with each other, but it isn't always possible or necessary to win a World Series championship.
Trading Kemp shouldn't have surprised anybody who followed the Dodgers. Yes, he had a fantastic second half, providing the needed power that helped the team go to the playoffs and win their second consecutive NL West title. However, he had a major ankle injury in 2013, threatening to end his career, and his shoulder needed two arthroscopic procedures to clean it out.
But trading Kemp to the Padres when the Dodgers have to face him 19 times a season doesn't make sense, especially when they are paying the Padres $40 million. I think baseball needs some new ideas, but keeping the old ones that have worked for generations should also be considered. Zaidi and Friedman should have studied the Dodgers a little more before they began making changes.