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CHOSENBALL, Chapter Two: Friedman’s List, Part II — The Fire Sale and the Media Firestorm

Posted on: January 13th, 2016 by Ron Kaplan

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of guest columns by Bertin Lefkovic regarding what it might be like to have a MLB team comprised totally of MOT. The next installment considers how a lone Jewish sportswriter would figure out what everybody else in the baseball media world missed completely.

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Armed with as little or as much support from management as he needed, Andrew Friedman prepared a list of the thirty-eight players who would join Joc Pederson and Bubby Rossman — the only one who is not on the Jewish Baseball News players list, but with a name like that, it has to be an oversight — on the Los Angeles Chosen Ones as he waited for the phone to ring, because he knew that once it started, it would not stop.

…Zack Greinke and Joe Wieland to the Los Angeles Angels for Sean Newcomb, Andrew Heaney, and $10 million

…Clayton Kershaw, Andrew Heaney, Corey Seager, and Sergio Santos to the New York Yankees for Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Jorge Mateo, Luis Severino, and $10 million

…Yasiel Puig and Peter Lavin to the New York Mets for Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Michael Conforto, and $10 million

…Adrian Gonzalez, John Cannon, Keibert Ruiz, Jhoan Calderon, and Romer Cuadrado to the Baltimore Orioles for Chris Davis, Ryan Lavarnway, and $10 million

…Chris Davis, Yasmani Grandal, Sean Newcomb, and J.P. Howell to the Texas Rangers for Joey Gallo, Rougned Odor, Juremi Profar, and $10 million

As mentioned previously, trading Greinke and Kershaw were the essential components necessary to make the fire sale subterfuge work.  Despite the sizable return, trading Puig wouldn’t attract a significant amount of attention, because he has been a controversial figure in the Dodgers realm since he first started playing at the pro level, exhibiting an equal measure of distraction and disturbance for every measure of dominance.

In this and other deals, Friedman would benefit from having experienced the 2015 season once already, knowing full well how much of a disaster Puig would prove to be, how dominant players like Greinke, Matz, and Syndegaard would become, and even how important a role Conforto would play in turning around the Mets’ fortunes very quickly after being promoted directly from AA baseball mid-season.

In March 2015, getting Puig and a player to be named later (PTBNL) for Conforto, Matz, and Syndergaard seemed like a steal at the time, but if it took place nine months later, Sandy Alderson would not just be fired for gross incompetence.  He would most likely be committed for insanity.  Now only time would tell if Puig’s future would change dramatically as a result of this change in his past or if he was destined to be more problem than solution wherever he played.

Friedman knew it would be hard to get full value for either Greinke or Kershaw because of their respective opt-outs, but the Greinke transaction made it possible to do the deals with both the Yankees and the Rangers that would enable him to at the very least project an image of a very bright future for the Dodgers with a core of Bird, Gallo, Judge, Matz, Odor, Profar, Sanchez, Severino, and Syndegaard to go along with Pederson, even though he knew that none of them except for Pederson would play a game in 2015.  God never said anything about 2016 and beyond, so for now, it made sense to have a Plan B just in case.

…Andre Ethier and Kenley Jansen to the Milwaukee Brewers for Ryan Braun and Ben Guez

…Carl Crawford, Jared Walker, Darnell Sweeney, and Austin Barnes to the Chicago White Sox for Jordan Yallen, Brad Goldberg, and $10 million

Andrew expected Crawford and Ethier to be the hardest players to move with their ample contracts and mediocre performances in recent years, but once the fire sale was in full blaze, Chicago was one of the first to call.  They were willing to take Crawford as long as Friedman was willing to give them Barnes, Sweeney, and Walker as well and not demand much, if anything, in return.  They weren’t crazy about having to give up the cash on top of Crawford’s huge contract, but when Friedman only asked for Goldberg and Yallen, players who weren’t on their radar, in return, they assented.  This pattern would play itself out in many of the other deals that he made.

Even though most of the rest of the league was falling over itself trying to get in on the action, the Brewers were more focused on unloading some of their own larger contracts, primarily that of their overpaid and underperforming third baseman Aramis Ramirez, so they were surprised to get Friedman’s call.

Going in, Friedman was prepared to take Ramirez as well if that was what it would take to get Braun, but after the PED debacle, the Brewers were satisfied with the Braun for Ethier swap, which would save them both dollars and years on their respective contracts.  Getting a closer in Jansen was a nice bonus as well and throwing in Guez was a no-brainer.  They feared that trying to dump Ramirez on a team that was clearly in sell mode would come across as greedy and could scuttle the deal.

When they asked Friedman why he was willing to take on dollars and years at the same time that he was unloading hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts, Andrew explained that he felt that Braun would be easier to package into a larger deal than Ethier.

…Brett Anderson, Julian Leon, and David Huff to the Cincinnati Reds for Jason Marquis, Jon Moscot, Zack Weiss, and $8 million

…Adam Liberatore to the Astros for Scott Feldman and $5.6 million

…Brandon McCarthy, Daniel Coulombe, Chris Reed, and Scott Baker to the St. Louis Cardinals for Corey Baker, Mason Katz, and $10 million

…Justin Turner, Grant Holmes, and Joey Curletta to the Oakland Athletics for Ike Davis, Sam Fuld, Nick Rickles, Michael Fagan, and $10 million

…Juan Uribe, Joel Peralta, Scott Schebler, and Enrique Hernandez to the Toronto Blue Jays for Kevin Pillar, Danny Valencia, and $8.1 million

…Luis Asencio, A.J. Ellis, William Soto, Sven Schuller, and Jefry Souffront to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Zach Borenstein, Nate Irving, and $10 million

…Scott Van Slyke, Felix Osorio, and Alex Verdugo to the Atlanta Braves for Mitchell Osnowitz, Alec Grosser, and $10 million

…David Aardsma, Michael Medina, Chris Anderson, Jose DeLeon, and Manuel Peguero to the Boston Red Sox for Craig Breslow and $10 million

…Yimi Garcia, Chris Hatcher, Ralston Cash, and Carlos Frias to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Henry Hirsch and $10 million

…Darwin Barney, Lars Anderson, A.J. Vanegas, Jairo Pacheco, and Victor Gonzalez to the San Diego Padres for Cody Decker and $9.7 million

…Paco Rodriguez, Pedro Baez, Juan NiCasio, Cody Bellinger, and Zach Lee to the Seattle Mariners for Scott DeCecco and $7.6 million

While Friedman was continuing to churn out deals, moving Crawford, Ethier, Gonzalez, Greinke, and Kershaw in a matter of hours fueled a national media firestorm that would burn for days.  Even three thousand miles away, the New York Daily News dedicated both its front page and its back page to the story.

Front Page – “FIRE SALE”

Back Page – “The Ravine!  The Ravine!  The Ravine is On Fire!  We Don’t Need No Water, Let the Ravine Burn!  Burn Chavez Ravine!  Burn!”

Dan Patrick of ESPN took time out of his busy schedule of shooting cameos in Adam Sandler films to throw in his two cents when he tweeted, “It looks like the wildfires that have ravaged the California countryside have finally reached Chavez Ravine”.

…Chin-hui Tsao to the New Jersey Jackals for Danny Moskovits

…O’Koyea Dickson to the Winnipeg Goldeyes for Casey Haerther

…Luis Mateo to the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks for Zach Penprase

…Jeremy Kehrt to the Aigles Trois-Rivieres for Jadd Schmeltzer

…Mike Bolsinger to the Gateway Grizzlies for Max Schonfeld and Richard Seigel

…Justin Chigbogu to the Ottawa Champions for Mike Schwartz

Even though the independent leagues were not a common trading partner for major league baseball teams, Andrew was able to get the rest of the players that he needed to fill out the team’s 40-man roster from them.

…Freddy Garcia, Chris Heisey, Elliot Johnson, and Jeremy Hazelbaker to the Philadelphia Phillies for Ryan Howard and $10 million

…Ryan Howard, Jorge Mateo, Brock Stewart, Carlos Felix, and Felix Lacen to the Colorado Rockies for Boone Logan, Cristhian Adames, and $10 million

…Howie Kendrick, Ji milliony Rollins, Boone Logan, Jon Garcia, Ibandel Isabel, Devan Ahart, and Kevin Guzman to the Detroit Tigers for Ian Kinsler, Tim Remes, Jacob Kapstein, Josh Zeid, and $10 million

As one would imagine, the last few deals are always the hardest.  Andrew could have just swapped Kendrick for Kinsler, but he wanted the Tigers to offset the money difference between their deals by taking Jimmy Rollins as well and he also needed to get the other three Jewish prospects from their farm system.  He also tried unloading his last few players, Freddy Garcia, Chris Heisey, and Elliot Johnson, on them as well, but they weren’t biting.  Nobody else was particularly interested in them either

Then, oddly enough, Philadelphia had seen Friedman take on money in the Braun deal and wanted to see if he was interested in doing something for Ryan Howard.  Obviously, taking on an albatross like Howard was the last thing that he wanted to do, but he didn’t dismiss it entirely and started to shop him around on spec.  This turned out to be a blessing and curse.

The only two teams who were willing to take Howard were intradivisional rivals, the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants.  Both wanted Jorge Mateo included in the deal and both were willing to offer a quality relief pitcher and a lesser shortstop prospect in return.  Friedman was very unhappy about having to include Corey Seager in the Kershaw deal, but took solace in the fact that he was able to get Mateo back in return.  This, however, was not what concerned him most about these prospective deals.

While Howard seemed to be literally crumbling before our eyes, the last thing Andrew wanted was to have him experience a change of scenery resurgence and the Dodgers have to bear the brunt of it 19 times per year.  The X factor wound up being the Tigers need for bullpen help and Logan wound up being the missing piece that enabled the rest of the Kinsler deal to fall into place.  Friedman also saw the Rockies as less of a rival and a threat than the Giants, so he made the deals, closed up his office, and went to an In-N-Out Burger to celebrate the end of a very long and very successful day.

Despite the fact that Friedman had traded for 37 Jewish baseball players and signed one more, Ryan Kalish, to a one-year contract, in one day, it still appeared as if the fire sale was all that anybody wanted to talk about.  However, that would not last for long.

Author’s Note:  All of the transactions described above except one were negotiated in good faith using the Out of the Park baseball simulation game.  The only exception was the trade involving Ryan Braun, because the game recognized the no-trade-clause in Braun’s contract and refused to negotiate, requiring the use of the “Force Trade” function to complete the trade.  It is the belief of the author that the trade that was made using this function was as fair as it could be.

To be continued…
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LefkovicBertin Lefkovic, a Jewish communal professional, is a lover of baseball and Jewish peoplehood He has written at length about both and was significantly involved with the fledgling Israel Baseball League, including, but not limited to, drafting the Netanya Tigers. This effort to explore the potential of an all-Jewish major league baseball team is done in honor and memory of Ezra Schwartz and many others who are no longer with us, but whose passion for the game of baseball, the State of Israel, and the Jewish people lives on in the hearts and minds of all of us who share them with them.

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