Dodgers expected to retain Dave Roberts as manager

LOS ANGELES -- Dave Roberts is expected to return as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, as is the entirety of his coaching staff, front-office executives Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi strongly suggested during a joint news conference from Dodger Stadium on Thursday.

Friedman, who recently finished his fourth season as the team's president of baseball operations, said the two sides "made a significant amount of progress" on extension talks dating back to spring training and decided to table those discussions only because the focus was shifting toward the upcoming season.

Asked which obstacles he foresees with regard to signing Roberts to another contract, Friedman provided a succinct answer: "I don't."

Zaidi, the team's general manager, said contracts for Roberts and all of his coaches "should be finalized in the next week or two." Moments later, however, The Athletic reported that third-base coach Chris Woodward is a "strong" candidate to become the Texas Rangers' new manager.

"We talked throughout the year about how optimistic we are that we're going to work together for a long time," Friedman said of Roberts, "and we remain that way."

Friedman and Zaidi -- the principal architects of teams that made it to back-to-back World Series but ultimately came up short -- were still noticeably weary from a 2018 season that only ended Sunday in a Game 5 loss to the champion Boston Red Sox.

The turnaround was so quick that Clayton Kershaw's opt-out deadline was pushed from midnight ET on Wednesday to 4 p.m. ET on Friday. The same took place with the 2019 club option for corner infielder David Freese, although that option was declined Thursday and Freese later signed a one-year, $5 million deal, per ESPN and multiple reports.

Kershaw, owed $65 million over the next two years, can choose to become a free agent for the first time in his career. The Dodgers' ace would do so with the hope of extending a similar average annual value over the course of a longer contract, but both sides are working toward a resolution before Kershaw ventures into the open market.

Friedman described the negotiations as "pleasant," then Zaidi chimed in.

"I was going to say 'ongoing,'" he joked.

"Ongoingly pleasant," Friedman conceded.

"Obviously he's made as much of an impact as you can on an organization in terms of the success we've had -- not just on the field, but from a culture standpoint, in terms of bringing up young pitchers and kind of emulating the work ethic, the drive," Friedman said. "But beyond that, as we look out, we have a couple days here. We're going to continue to have those conversations, and when we get to a point of being able to announce something, it'll be easier to go into more detail."

Outside of Roberts, Friedman was unable to provide definitive answers on several of the Dodgers' most pressing questions.

He didn't have a clear timetable for shortstop Corey Seager, who underwent Tommy John surgery and later a procedure to repair a labrum tear in his hip. Friedman is "optimistic" Seager will be ready by Opening Day, but it's too soon to know.

Nor did Friedman know what to expect from Julio Urias, the talented starting pitcher who returned from shoulder surgery in September and helped out of the bullpen (Urias will "impact our 2019 team" in some capacity," Friedman said). And he was vague on the possibility of once again exceeding the luxury-tax threshold over the offseason.

"It's not something that we've really gotten into at this point," Friedman said. "More than that, there's no question that we have plenty of resources to win a World Series next year."

The Dodgers made two consecutive trips to the World Series for the first time since 1977 to 1978. They overcame a lot of adversity -- 10 games under .500 in the middle of May, a 3-9 record during a crucial stretch in the middle of August -- to win the franchise's sixth consecutive division title, then advanced to the Fall Classic by winning Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on the road against the Milwaukee Brewers.

But then the Dodgers ran into a Red Sox team that won 108 games during the regular season and quickly dispatched the 100-win New York Yankees and the defending championship Houston Astros in the first two rounds. The Red Sox eliminated the Dodgers in five games, winning two close ones in Fenway Park, overcoming a late four-run deficit in Game 4 and beating Kershaw in Game 5.

"We have a lot to be proud of, getting back to the World Series and losing to a very worthy opponent," Zaidi said. "There's a difference between not being fully satisfied and not getting to your ultimate goal and feeling like you need to dole out blame."

A lot of blame has been directed at the Dodgers in the wake of their loss -- at Friedman and Zaidi, for constructing a lineup with too many platoon players and not adding enough bullpen help; and at Roberts, for sitting some of his best hitters against lefties in the first two games against Boston and for removing Rich Hill too early in Game 4.

Friedman said the "central theme" of the World Series disappointment was "how much we struggled offensively," which put the bullpen in a vulnerable position. But Friedman and Zaidi will continue to exploit their lineup depth to create matchup advantages, fully confident in its long-term benefits. And they still don't buy into the notion of paying a premium for non-closers because relief pitcher volatility remains so high.

Friedman and Zaidi also stood by Roberts' decisions, ones that got him booed at Dodger Stadium moments before what ended up being the season finale.

"As a general point, we both feel very strongly that those decisions, those strategic decisions, are the result of a process," said Zaidi, who has reportedly been contacted by the San Francisco Giants about the possibility of running their baseball operations department.

"Dave's process is having conversations with us, having conversations with coaches, trusting his own gut, trusting what he sees as these games unfold. We believe, and we continue to have full confidence in, his process. Sometimes things turn out your way, sometimes things don't. That's baseball. That's the beauty of this game."