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Dodgers make big splash with Andrew Friedman

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There is something exciting about landing a big prize in baseball, securing one of the most sought-after people in the sport.. In a free agent sense, being able to simply outspend everyone, it's a feeling Andrew Friedman never knew in Tampa Bay.

But it's a feeling the Dodgers have in landing Friedman.

There was pomp and circumstance when the Dodgers paid $147 million for Zack Greinke in December 2012, and rightfully so. Two years into his six-year contract Greinke has very much proven to be the second ace of the Dodgers pitching staff.

Greinke was a big fish, feeding the Dodgers in the short term. Friedman is the fisherman, here for the long haul.

The Dodgers even made a brand new position for him — president of baseball operations.

There is ample reason to be excited, and not just because Friedman once got Edwin Jackson (and Chuck Tiffany) for Danys Baez and All-Star Lance Carter from the man he replaced. That was nine years ago, and both Friedman and Ned Colletti, kicked upstairs to an advisory role, are different people now.

The excitement in Friedman comes with his age, just 37 — at least for another month — so this is a long-term move; and in his accomplishments. On a shoestring budget with the Rays he produced winners, with four playoff berths and a World Series appearance in his nine years in Tampa Bay, a franchise that averaged 97 losses in the first eight years of its existence before Friedman's arrival.

In the last seven years under Friedman, the Rays averaged just under 90 wins with an average payroll of $60 million per year, per Cot's Baseball Contracts. The largest payroll the Rays had under Friedman was in 2014, at just under $77 million.

In 2015, the Dodgers will pay Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Matt Kemp alone $74 million.

The largest single-season salary by one player under Friedman was the $14 million made by David Price in 2014*. The Dodgers in 2014 had eight people make more than that, and they have six players set to make more than that in both 2016 and 2017.

*Evan Longoria will eventually make more, when his salary kicks up to $14.5 million, in 2019. Friedman signed Longoria to two of the most team-friendly contracts in baseball history, paying him a total of $144.5 million for his first 15 years.

One can only hope Corey Seager craves such financial security.

The Rays didn't even pay Price all of that $14 million, dealing him to the Tigers on July 31. One of the necessities of working under financial constraints in Tampa Bay, like dealing James Shields or watching Carl Crawford walk via free agency.

Okay, maybe those financial restrictions do have their advantages, but those limitations don't exist in Los Angeles.

"I'm not aware of constraints," team president and CEO Stan Kasten told reporters on Tuesday. "The only constraint is trying to win with the best team we have."

Friedman is taking over a two-time defending division winner with most of its core intact, and will be expected to win right away. It's not going to be easy, because marginal wins are still difficult to come by. But if there is anything the former Wall Street analyst Friedman has shown in his time with the Rays, it's that he is excellent and finding advantages in the margins.

Almost all of the doubt I had in the Dodgers offering shortstop Hanley Ramirez a qualifying offer is gone, for instance.

Friedman will make some hard choices, likely first among them finding a new general manager. Eventually, Friedman will probably hire a new manager.

The Dodgers will probably shift more on defense. They will probably focus more on catcher framing. Anything that might gain an advantage for the team.

But it's not just about winning now. It's about building on what Kasten calls Phase 2 of the process, when the Dodgers build from within and produce homegrown talent going forward.

The man now calling the shots - Friedman - described his process as this to Jonah Keri in the excellent book The Extra 2%, about the Rays:

"We're constantly assessing what we're doing. After we make decisions, we postmortem them at a later date. We keep copious notes on the variables we knew, everything we knew going in. Then we go back and look at it to review the process. It's something we're continuing to refine and will be in perpetuity. I hope to never get to the point where we're content, or we feel great about everything and go into autopilot mode."

There are many decisions to be made. With Friedman at the helm, I'm much more confident more decisions will be right than I was yesterday.