Reported new Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi may not be familiar to some of you, as assistant general managers and front office executives aren't often in the news. But to get some idea of Zaidi's philosophies, here is a video of the 2013 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT.
Talking about roster construction, Zaidi - then with the A's - discussed his strategy for optimizing Oakland's roster at the edges of the 25-man active roster and even beyond. This exchange happens just after the 15-minute mark in the video.
"We called it managing the roster from the bottom. When you're a team that's pretty sabermetrically inclined and analytical in the decisions you make, if you follow those decisions there's really a lower bound to how many wins," Zaidi explained. "You can build a 75-win team just based on sound analytical principles, and you can do that year in, year out even with a $50 million payroll. The question is how do you get beyond that point?
"One way is to add at the top of the roster with stars, which for us [in Oakland] just isn't an affordable strategy. The other way is to manage from the bottom and take players who are liabilities - even small liabilities - and say what does it do to the collective team at the end of 162 games if we can shave some of this off the bottom in terms of productivity. Whether it's a backup catcher, or a utility infielder or the ninth or 10th bullpen arm you have who will be up and down all year. Really optimizing those positions for us became an important part about building a competitive team."
The A's in many cases didn't have a choice when it came to retaining star players, but with the Dodgers the high-priced players are already on the roster. New president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman faced similar budgetary restrictions in Tampa Bay, but talked about how his approach may change in his new home, during his introductory press conference.
"It's important for us to embrace the financial advantage that we have," Friedma said. "We're not going to shy away from it, but we're still going to maintain some of the disciplines that I feel are important in roster construction to put yourself in the best position to sustain success.
"There are things that will make much more sense here than they do in other markets, but that being said, it's really important to do as much as you can to put yourself in position to pay for what a player will do, not necessarily what they have done."