As spring training opens, Andrew Friedman hopes Dodgers do more than 'win the offseason'

Los Angeles Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman attends a baseball news conference

The Dodgers haven’t been afraid of concocting “crazy ideas” in past offseasons, as president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman described them.

It’s just that, usually, the team doesn’t execute them the way it did this winter.

After their well-documented spending spree over the last three months, the Dodgers opened spring training this week with new faces across the team — from Yoshinobu Yamamoto to Tyler Glasnow and Shohei Ohtani most of all.

That's why, in his first meeting with the media Friday afternoon in a lobby at the team’s Camelback Ranch facility, Friedman spent the better part of 15 minutes fielding questions about each — embracing in the process both the expectations that came with the club’s splashy acquisitions, and the need to make all the pieces fit ahead of a highly anticipated campaign.

Read more: Shohei Ohtani says he's 'going to act like I'm a rookie' as he settles in with Dodgers

"We feel really fortunate with the way things lined up this offseason,” Friedman said. “That being said, we've seen a lot of teams 'win an offseason.' So for us, that was an important step. But the most vital steps are this six-week period, as we get into the season.”

The biggest factor in the club’s 2024 equation: Ohtani, who also met with reporters Friday as he acclimated to his new surroundings.

Both Friedman and manager Dave Roberts noted that Ohtani’s transition has been underway for months, after the two-way star spent much of the winter working out at Dodger Stadium.

“For him to experience that, I think was great,” Friedman said.

“Just watching him work, everything he does is intentional,” added Roberts. “Which is pretty amazing, but not surprising.”

The Dodger Stadium workouts gave some teammates such as Walker Buehler and Gavin Lux a chance to interact with Ohtani, as well.

“It was awesome,” Lux said. “Obviously everyone knows how good of a baseball player he is, but seeing the work that goes behind it is really impressive.”

Dodgers shortstop Gavin Lux, wearing a knee brace, throws to first base at spring training on Friday.
Dodgers shortstop Gavin Lux, wearing a knee brace, throws to first base at spring training on Friday. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Friedman also spoke highly of the Dodgers’ new-look starting rotation — a group that was significantly bolstered by the arrivals of Yamamoto, Glasnow and veteran James Paxton, yet still faces questions about injury concerns and workload management.

“For each guy, it’s a little bit different,” Friedman said. “But we feel the collection of arms and the depth of it is something that is going to help us navigate a 162-game season, and then still have really talented arms when we go into October — if we’re fortunate enough [to get there].”

In the meantime, one of the team’s biggest objectives this spring will be acclimating so many new players into a clubhouse that has already undergone significant roster change over the last several seasons.

“It takes time to build relationships, the culture,” Roberts said. “So I think, for me, it's [about] being a facilitator and trying to forge these relationships with teammates. Because that's going to be the lifeline of our success.”

That, and the influx of talent Friedman and the front office have banked more than $1 billion on this offseason.

“Every year is different, and for the guys that have been here for a while, especially, this is another year of change,” veteran outfielder Jason Heyward said. “But I think we all can agree — especially with guys who can relate to what it’s like to play on losing teams and then play on teams that have won — it’s nice to see your team make additions. It’s nice to see your team go for it. And I think it’s cool to be in a spot where they don’t take that for granted.”

Yamamoto and Buehler throw

Dodgers pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto throws at Camelback Ranch on Friday.
Dodgers pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto throws at Camelback Ranch on Friday. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Yamamoto threw his first bullpen session as a Dodger on Friday, firing pitches on one of the Camelback Ranch bullpens in front of some 70 reporters and photographers.

“Really nasty,” said Lux, who stood in at the plate for part of Yamamoto’s bullpen. “Everything is firm. The splitter plays like it’s 90-92. Fastball feels firmer than 94-95. The curveball, everything. It’s a four-pitch mix for a strike. And the little slide step he does makes everything play up. I think he’s gonna have a lot of success really fast.”

Lux also stood in for Buehler’s first bullpen session of the spring Friday.

While Buehler likely won’t start the season on time — a plan designed to limit his workload and keep him fresh over the course of the season while returning from Tommy John surgery — Lux said the right-hander has looked sharp all winter.

Friedman said Buehler will start facing hitters again at some point soon, but that his timeline hasn’t been determined.

Clayton Kershaw contract official

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw walks on the field at Dodger Stadium before a game.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw is officially under contract with the team. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers made Clayton Kershaw’s new contract with the team official on Friday, publicly announcing the one-year deal that includes a player option for 2025.

According to a person with knowledge of the deal’s terms who was not authorized to speak publicly, Kershaw is guaranteed a $5 million base salary this year, but could earn as much as roughly $12 million through incentives based on the number of starts he makes this year, once he returns from offseason shoulder surgery (Friedman didn't offer an exact timeline, but Kershaw said he is hoping to return sometime around July or August).

In 2025, Kershaw’s base salary will also be $5 million, though he could again make much more depending on how many starts he makes in 2024 and 2025.

“We’ve said this a lot, but it feels like everything is right in the world when Kershaw is wearing Dodger Blue,” Friedman said. “From our standpoint, it was aggressive from the beginning to let him know how important it was to us, but also giving him the space for he and Ellen to figure out what makes the most sense for him and his family. We were persistent but respectful and all is well that ends well.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.