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The extra money won't help Andrew Friedman as much as you might think

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If you're expecting a lot from new President of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman, it's not the bigger checkbook that's going to make the biggest difference.

J. Meric

SB Nation 2014 MLB Bracket

The Dodgers, having paid top dollar for the best talent on the field, are now paying top dollar for the best talent off the field. This is expected. This is the logical progression. This is still one heckuva coup for the Dodgers.

The reaction is almost universal: Look at what Andrew Friedman, new Dodgers President of Baseball Operations, did without money. Now guess what he'll do with money.

That's just a quick search for the terms "Friedman" and "200." There are more. There are plenty more. Friedman and money, man. What would that cat do with more money? We're about to find out. The grand experiment is underway.

Except, let's talk about money. Specifically, let's talk about money and smart guys. Here's a smart guy, now! Hey, smart guy, what do you think about giving lots of money to free agents?

Smart guy: Do not give lots of money to free agents.

Huh. Kind of direct, but okay. Now let's talk to a smart guy with lots of money. Hey, smart guy with lots of money, what do you think about giving lots of money to free agents?

Smart guy with lots of money: I mean ... if you're telling me I need to spend the money, I'll do it. It's not my money. I like good baseball players as much as the next GM. But giving lots of money to free agents and paying for their decline is usually a bad idea.

Theo Epstein was a smart guy with lots of money when he was with the Red Sox. He had all of the analytics we had, and then he had weaponized analytics that we didn't. When he was prowling the free-agent market, he was armed with information and smarts and money. He came away with $142 million Carl Crawford.

Jerry Dipoto of the Angels is a smart guy with lots of money. He combines baseball experience with an analytics twist, and he was finally rewarded with a winner this season. Yet when he was pushed onto the free-agent market with a quarter-billion dollars, he came away with a pair of questionable deals in Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Perhaps those were 99 percent Arte Moreno deals, if not 100 percent, but they were pretty good examples of what nearly unlimited money can buy you: Really expensive players. Let's bring in that smart guy again. Thoughts?

Smart guy: Really expensive players are kind of a drag.

Once a good or great player hits free agency, there's no mystery. There's no surprising the market. There are no inefficiencies to exploit. There are only expensive players. Smart guys know that giving nine-figure deals to 30-year-olds will turn out poorly. So does the absolute dumbest GM in baseball, whomever that may be. It's not like Andrew Friedman can see through the wispy tendrils of time and be the one GM in history who can separate the Adrian Beltres from the Shin-Soo Choos, the GM who will just know which monster free agents will hit and which ones will go full Barry Zito.

That GM or executive doesn't exist. Every potential Dodgers string-puller, given their relative lack of payroll restrictions, would make huge mistakes with premium free agents. "This nine-figure free agent will probably look like a mistake in a couple years" is almost a tautology. You could replace it with "This nine-figure free agent will probably look like a nine-figure free agent in a couple years" or "this mistake will look like a mistake," and the meaning doesn't change. Expecting Friedman to succeed where Epstein, Dipoto, Jon Daniels, and all the other smart GMs with money failed seems overly optimistic.

No, if you're excited about Friedman, forget about the money. Focus on the things he did with the Rays that didn't take money, finding unpolished gemstones and looking under every rock for tools that might turn into production. Money doesn't help a bullpen; as the 2014 Dodgers showed, it can often screw a bullpen up more than it can help.

Money doesn't help GMs and other executives make deft trades for undervalued commodities, which Friedman was seemingly adept at. It's not like more money was going to make the Cubs give up Chris Archer and Javier Baez for Matt Garza. Friedman made a smart trade, as he's wont to do, but more money wasn't going to help him extract better prospects.

Money doesn't help a farm system, at least not like it used to. With the restrictions on draft and international spending, it's not like the Dodgers can bully the other 29 teams on an amateur level. That's still going to take smarts, which the Dodgers already had. Considering the state of Rays drafting in recent years, Dodgers fans should probably hope that Friedman leaves that particular binder in St. Petersburg.

This isn't to suggest that money is irrelevant -- oh, it helps. The Dodgers can afford a couple of Choos when they're searching for Beltres. That part of the roster construction, though, doesn't need a Friedman. That needs an administrative assistant to print up the contract, some lawyers to look it over, and the funds to pay for it.

Where Friedman will help the Dodgers is by bringing over his skills from his days as a pauper -- stepping in front of other teams to amass as many bullpen lottery tickets and undervalued and overlooked talents as possible, while expanding the search for the next frontier in scouting and analytics. The money will help, but the money + Friedman doesn't help as much as you might think. Almost everything that's good about the Dodgers right now had to do with decisions that weren't all about money. Drafting Clayton Kershaw. Developing Matt Kemp. Being more confident in Yasiel Puig and Hyun-jin Ryu than the other teams.

Signing Zack Greinke? Hell, Ned Colletti could do that. Which is the point. The money helps the Dodgers the same way tomorrow that it did yesterday. Getting excited about Friedman is something to do when you think about what he can do without money. His track record with the Rays was strong. The Dodgers are making a good gamble to expect that to continue in a new setting. But it's not the extra payroll that's going to help Friedman succeed where other GMs or executives would fail.