Dodgers aim to keep young talent while winning

Team trying to balance quest for World Series title with building farm system

Dodgers aim to keep young talent while winning

PHOENIX -- Can the Dodgers pull off a youth movement and win a World Series at the same time?

They have a rookie manager in Dave Roberts, a youthful coaching staff, a rookie shortstop in Corey Seager, one of the most acclaimed farm systems in the game and are rebooting the roster while running off some of the payroll's most bloated contracts.

They've won three consecutive division titles, but haven't been to a World Series since 1988 and the fans won't let them forget it.

Spring Training: Schedule | Tickets | Information

So here they are with one of the most daring balancing acts in sports, trying to thread the needle by implementing a sustainable player personnel model without swallowing the bitter pill of losing.

"I think the biggest challenge is trying to find where your real levers are in terms of what you are willing to do to acquire talent," general manager Farhan Zaidi said at Monday's Cactus League Media Day.

"At the end of the day, you either compete on the free-agent market or you're willing to give up young talent in trades. When you're in a situation where you're trying to get long-term flexibility and trying to compete, neither option seems ideal. We won the division the last three years and have the same aspiration this year. I do think it's making the talent flexibility tradeoff that's probably the toughest part."

The Dodgers have Seager, Julio Urias and a total of seven of the top 100 prospects in the game, according to MLBPipeline.com. If speculation is accurate, not trading them meant the Dodgers didn't have Cole Hamels for last year's stretch run and couldn't pry Jose Fernandez from the Marlins at the Winter Meetings.

• Dodgers Top 30 Prospects

Not getting Hamels didn't sit well in the clubhouse last year. Some players suggest it factored into Zack Greinke's willingness to eventually leave because the club didn't show a commitment to win at all costs. The usually candid Greinke would only say "no comment" when asked last year about the Trade Deadline results.

Zaidi said the front office is well aware of the World Series drought and the impatience of Dodgers fans.

"We understand the expectations, that the Dodgers haven't won a World Series since 1988, and that is the goal," he said. "Getting to the playoffs isn't necessarily going to satisfy people, even though you have to get there first. We have those expectations ourselves. It comes with the territory in this market."

But Zaidi said management also is committed to developing talent rather than always being the highest bidder.

"One of our big goals last year was to find ways to improve the farm system, ultimately to get younger and create roster flexibility, and having good young players is the single most important factor," he said.

"Being ranked the No. 1 system by Baseball America, we're not putting that trophy in the trophy case. It's a means to an end. It's so important for us to either incorporate that talent at the Major League level or, if an opportunity presents itself, move some of that talent for players that can help us at the Major League level. Obviously, we have to be careful with that. Prospects are the valuable currency."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.