The Dodgers were in a good place when they hired Andrew Friedman as president of baseball operations after the 2014 season.
They had won back-to-back National League West division titles, boasted the game’s best pitcher and had a burgeoning group of talent making its way through the minors.
But that wasn’t enough for a franchise with the baseball’s largest payroll and a rich history of championships that were becoming a distant memory.
So when Friedman, general manager Farhan Zaidi, vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes and the rest of new management took over the Dodgers’ front office that fall, their task was to turn a playoff-caliber team into a championship-caliber one.
By 2017, they had done just that. The Dodgers won 104 games, the franchise’s most since moving from Brooklyn. They reached their first World Series since 1988, where they took the Astros to seven games before falling. They did it with a mix of standout homegrown players, shrewd trade acquisitions and fruitful scouting in every area.
For that, the Dodgers are Baseball America’s 2017 Organization of the Year, an accomplishment borne of the philosophy implemented by Friedman and Co. as soon as they took the reins in Chavez Ravine.
“Obviously the 2014 season was successful on a number of fronts, but as we assessed the roster and looked ahead, we felt strongly that for us to be in a position to maintain it, to sustain the recent success and enhance it, that we would need to infuse talented young players into our core group and do it steadily over time,” Friedman said. “One observation that we had was looking at the 2014 Red Sox, who had a number of really talented young players that all kind of came up the major league roster at the same time, was how volatile that situation can be. So we wanted to try to integrate one to two at a time over the years, to not put as much pressure on our talented young players, but also not be so reliant on so many young players all at once.”
One-by-one, they did exactly that. They integrated Corey Seager and Austin Barnes onto the big league roster in 2015, while also trading for veterans Yasmani Grandal, Chase Utley and Alex Wood. They brought Ross Stripling, Julio Urias and Brock Stewart onto the pitching staff in 2016, while also signing Kenta Maeda and trading for Rich Hill. In 2017 they completed the trickle, bringing up Cody Bellinger while also making trades for Logan Forsythe and, eventually, Yu Darvish, Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson.
In all, 16 of the 25 players on the Dodgers’ World Series roster were acquired under the Friedman regime.
The final product was a historic season that brought the Dodgers closer to a championship than at any time in the last three decades.
“I think as we look back on the 2017 season there is a lot to be proud of,” Friedman said. “Obviously we fell short of our ultimate goal by one game. But, overall, I think the positives of what were further instilled this year will continue to pay dividends for us in 2018 and beyond.”