The Los Angeles Dodgers, fresh off their second consecutive World Series appearance, head into the off season with developing holes in leadership that must be quickly addressed if the team hopes for a third consecutive trip to the World Series next season.
As is often the case for championship teams, the front office talent cupboard has been raided over the past two seasons. Last off season, Alex Anthopoulos and Alex Tamin left to become the GM and Assistant GM in Atlanta, Gabe Kapler became the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, bullpen coach Josh Bard joined the New York Yankees as bench coach, Tim Hyers became the hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox, minor league pitching coach Matt Herges left to become the pitching coach for the rival San Francisco Giants, and scout Aaron Sele joined the Marlins.
The attrition has already begun heading into the 2019 season. The off season got off to a rocky start with the defection of hitting coach Turner Ward, who took the same role with the National League rival Cincinnati Reds, as reported on MLB.com. New Cincinnati manager David Bell contacted Ward on Saturday night, and within hours Ward had agreed to a three-year deal with the Reds. Ward has been a notable empowering and calming influence on many of the Dodgers hitters during his tenure in Los Angeles, especially for formerly troubled superstar Yasiel Puig. Ward’s departure followed that of third-base coach Chris Woodward, who left to become the manager of the Texas Rangers.
On Tuesday, the hated San Francisco Giants pulled a coup on their rivals to the south, luring Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi to the Bay Area as the team’s new President of Baseball Operations. Zaidi left the Dodgers four years to the day after he was hired from another Bay Area team, the Oakland Athletics, according to MLB.com. The MIT graduate who earned a PhD in economics from California-Berkeley will be sorely missed for his analytical acumen, and will likely be a boon to Los Angeles’ divisional opponents.
Los Angeles slowed the bleeding a little by picking up the club option on manager Dave Roberts for the 2019 season on Wednesday. President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said that the team will work toward reaching a multi-year agreement with Roberts before his contract expires after next season. Roberts has received criticism — even from the President — for some high-profile decisions that backfired, but he has been one of the most successful first-time managers in both Dodgers and baseball history, and his personable affectation and attention to analytics has made him popular among players and front office personnel.
It remains to be seen how much more attrition the Dodgers front office must endure this off season, and whether or not Los Angeles can reload rather than rebuild the organization. It also remains to be seen how long the Dodgers can sustain the loss of front office talent while also successfully competing on the field.