Since 2006, no other general manager in the National League has constructed teams with more wins than Ned Colletti of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It is a surprising statistic given Colletti’s poor reputation among followers of the team, who will quickly note every bad signing and trade that the GM has made during his tenure. Hired to replace Paul DePodesta following the 2005 season, Colletti has made his fair share of missteps along the way, but those missteps have not precluded the Dodgers from being successful on the field.
Since the Guggenheim ownership group took over, Colletti has made far more good moves than bad. This may have something to do with the presence of Stan Kasten as president of the ballclub, who experienced sustained success with the Atlanta Braves throughout the 90’s. Dodger trades and signings have improved since the change in ownership, and many have suggested that Frank McCourt was more responsible for Colletti’s questionable moves than Colletti himself.
The most egregious Colletti trade of the pre-Guggenheim era is the oft-referenced Casey Blake deal. The Dodgers were in desperate need of help at third base, a position that Blake would fill nicely. Colletti negotiated a deal with the Cleveland Indians, only to have McCourt demand part of Blake’s salary be covered as part of the deal. In return for cash, Colletti was forced to include catcher Carlos Santana in the deal, who almost immediately became a productive regular for the Indians. Aside from this trade, Colletti has been a solid deal-maker for the team, turning Milton Bradley into Andre Ethier, Cesar Izturis into Greg Maddux, Andy LaRoche into Manny Ramirez, Trayvon Robinson into Stephen Fife and Tim Federowicz, Nate Eovaldi into Hanley Ramirez, and of course, the blockbuster deal that brought Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto and Josh Beckett. His signings, on the other hand, have not been great until recently.
Juan Pierre’s five-year, $44 million deal and Jason Schmidt’s three-year, $47 million deal immediately come to mind, as does Andruw Jones’ two-year, $36 million deal. It seems that in the time thereafter, Colletti either became a bit wary of long-term or lucrative free-agent deals, or, more likely, he was restrained by McCourt’s financial issues. In the pre-Guggenheim time period, Colletti favored short-term deals, though arguments could easily be made against the merits of Juan Uribe’s and Matt Guerrier’s three-year deals. The only long-term financial commitment made was to Matt Kemp, who agreed to an eight-year, $160 million deal that many saw as something of a necessary olive branch from McCourt, whose public perception was incredibly low at the time.
Guggenheim and their seemingly limitless budget have stabilized Colletti, and his transactions have improved dramatically in the time since. The Hanley Ramirez trade was an absolute steal (Eovaldi is a nice player, but nowhere near as valuable as Ramirez), and the Boston trade brought immediate legitimacy back to Dodger baseball. The Ethier extension is questionable as he may be relegated to fourth outfielder this season, but he is certainly not without value. Brandon League’s is absolutely the worst of the bunch, but that bunch includes deals with Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Uribe (again, on a two-year deal), Brian Wilson, J.P Howell and others.
There are other factors at play with Colletti’s success. Dodgers scouting and development has been in the capable hands of Logan White for some time now, but Colletti has done his part by heeding White’s advice and taking action on players suggested by White. Kasten’s presence has also likely benefited Colletti, and under McCourt, it is hard to imagine any sort of long-term plan or organizational philosophy being in place. Now that there are guidelines, directives and clear strategies, Colletti is able to work with a specific goal in mind.
The most recent signings further illustrate Colletti's abilities under the Guggenheim group. The Dodgers were able to sign Dan Haren 1 year, $10 million), Jamey Wright (1/$1.8m), Chris Perez (1/$2.3m), Howell (2/$11.25m), Uribe (2/$15m) and Wilson (1/$10m) to reasonable contracts (given the current state of the free agent market), and also negotiated the Kershaw (7/$215m) extension.
The new Dodgers value stability in the roles of manager and general manager, and it looks as though those positions will be filled by Don Mattingly and Colletti, respectively, for the foreseeable future. If Colletti’s moves under Guggenheim are an indicator, it seems as if he and the Dodgers will continue to be at the top of the standings.
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