Tampa Bay Rays Rumors

Tampa Bay Rays trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

AL East Notes: Cruz, Rays, Vazquez

Ten years ago today, Curt Schilling pitched the Red Sox to a 4-2 victory over the Yankees in Game Six of the ALCS in what has become known as “the bloody sock” game. A retrospective by MLB.com’s Ian Browne chronicles Schilling’s performance with a torn tendon sheath in his ankle and the ingenuity of the Red Sox’s medical team suturing Schilling’s ankle tendon to his skin. Before making the decision to perform the procedure on Schilling, Dr. Bill Morgan first tried it on a cadaver to see if it worked. It did and Schilling and the Red Sox went on to make baseball history by becoming the first team to win a playoff series after facing a 3-0 deficit and winning the franchise’s first World Series in 86 years.

Flash forward a decade and here’s the latest from the AL East:

  • The Orioles need to take advantage of Nelson Cruz‘s warm feelings for the organization while they last and make their best offer to him early, opines the Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck. The Orioles, Schmuck adds, would like that offer to be a two-year deal with an option worth a guaranteed $30MM.
  • Cruz is one of the top ten moves GM Dan Duquette made over the past two years to make the Orioles the AL East champions, writes CSNBaltimore’s Rich Dubroff.
  • Despite Andrew Friedman’s departure, the decisions and evaluations that went into constructing the 2014 Rays will be the same decisions and evaluations that go into retooling the team for 2015, reports Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune. The operations department will remain the same, but with Matt Silverman at the helm and top assistants Chaim Bloom and Erik Neander sharing the mantle of VP of baseball ops.
  • The Rays are expected to make a series of transactions over the next few weeks to clear 40-man roster space and protect several rising prospects, notes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Catcher Justin O’Conner, outfielder Mikie Mahtook, and left-hander Adam Liberatore are among those who will be shielded from the Rule 5 draft.
  • Defense and leadership are the calling cards the Red Sox hope will make catcher Christian Vazquez their long-term solution behind the plate, according to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber. The Red Sox feel his offense will develop as future Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez compares Vazquez to the CardinalsYadier Molina and a NL talent evaluator likens the 24-year-old to the PhilliesCarlos Ruiz.

AL East Notes: Orioles, Yankees, Rays

The Orioles may have been swept in the ALCS, but the club believes their 96 win season (plus three playoff victories) put their division rivals on notice, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Despite the excellent season, four key players contributed less than expected, which may give the team additional upside next season.

  • Connolly identified five key points for the 2015 Orioles, three of which deal with potential transactions. On base percentage has been an issue in the past few seasons. The Orioles bashed the most home runs in the league for the second consecutive season, but they finished just eighth in runs scored. Prioritizing base runners should translate to more RBI opportunities for the power bats. An ace would be a meaningful addition, although Connolly notes that payroll constraints and a history of avoiding large outlays to pitchers may prevent the club from exploring the top end of the market. Depth was a big reason for this season’s division crown, and it will again be an important consideration. Per Connolly, “it’s Duquette’s specialty.”
  • Bill Madden of the New York Daily News looks to the Royals as a template for the new era of baseball. Unfortunately, that could pose problems for the current Yankees roster. The aging club is years from building a young, athletic team in the mold of the Royals. They do have a good start on an elite bullpen if they re-sign closer David Robertson. Madden believes the Yankees should pursue an additional right-handed reliever with elite velocity along with reform at the scouting and player development level.
  • Andrew Friedman’s decision to leave the Rays is a reflection of the state of the franchise, posits Madden in the same piece. Per Madden, Friedman recognized that his stock would “never be higher” and the Rays were headed in the wrong direction. The club has become increasingly reliant on outside additions with just six home grown players on the final roster. One damning statistic – since selecting Tim Beckham first overall in 2008, Tampa Bay hasn’t developed a player from draft to majors. Madden speculates that Rays manager Joe Maddon could be the next name out the door. His contract concludes after the 2015 season.

Rays Name Neander, Bloom VPs Of Baseball Ops

The Rays have promoted executives Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom to the title of vice president of baseball operations. Each longtime member of the Tampa Bay front office had previously served as a director of baseball operations. The team has officially announced the move via press release, though Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel tweeted the news earlier today after noting the change on their web site.

In a prepared statement, new Rays president of baseball operations Matthew Silverman had this to say of his two lieutenants:

“Erik and Chaim’s promotions are well deserved as they have been essential contributors to our operation for years. I look forward to working with them in all facets of baseball operations, and I know they will continue to be great leaders of our deeply talented and dedicated department.”

Neander first joined the Rays’ baseball ops department in 2007. The 31-year-old Virginia Tech grad brings an emphasis on player personnel, research and development, per the Rays’ press release. Bloom, also 31, has been with the club since 2005. The Yale grad’s focus is on player development, contract negotiation, international scouting and management of the Major League roster, per the team. In response to McDaniel’s earlier tweet, Jonah Keri of Grantland opined that each of the two rising executives would one day be general manager (Twitter link).

The promotions of Bloom and Neander is the latest shuffle in the Rays’ front office following the departure of GM Andrew Friedman, now president of baseball operations with the Dodgers. The promotion of Bloom and Neander seems to rule out any chance that either would follow Friedman to Los Angeles.



Central Links: Moore, Royals, Tigers, Cardinals

Though there’s been speculation that Royals GM Dayton Moore could be a possibility to take over the GM slot in Atlanta following Frank Wren’s dismissal, Royals owner David Glass told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that Moore is “absolutely” staying with the Royals. Moore’s contract runs through 2016, but as Heyman and others have noted, it’d seem odd to leave town after getting the Royals to their first World Series in 29 years. Glass had nothing but praise for Moore: “He’s done a great job. He’s as good as it gets as far as a general manager.”

More news from baseball’s Central divisions…

  • MLB.com’s Jim Callis breaks down how the Royals constructed their World Series roster, noting that the club has 14 homegrown players (draft or international signing), nine acquired via waivers or trade and only two signed via free agency (Omar Infante and Jason Vargas). One could make the case that Jeremy Guthrie also belongs in the free agent category, as he technically hit the open market for a couple of weeks between the end of the 2012 season and re-signing in Kansas City. However, the most intriguing part of Callis’ piece, for MLBTR readers, may be a comment from Moore on the importance of Jake Odorizzi‘s role in the James Shields/Wade Davis trade: “…he also kept Yordano Ventura out of that deal at that time.”
  • MLive.com’s Chris Iott makes five predictions about the upcoming Tigers offseason in his latest piece, prognosticating that Detroit will not make a serious run at re-signing Max Scherzer, nor will it spend lavishly on its bullpen, perhaps adding one mid-range option at best. As he notes, the combined $17MM owed to Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria is already more than the $15.4MM the club spent on last year’s entire Opening Day bullpen. Iott does, however, foresee a re-signing of Victor Martinez. For his last two predictions, he expects an internal competition for the fifth starter slot and that one (or both) or Andy Dirks and Don Kelly will be non-tendered, based on recent comments from GM Dave Dombrowski. Bottom line: he expects Detroit to spend on retaining Martinez and acquiring a center fielder rather than on the bullpen or rotation.
  • The Cardinals aren’t likely to re-sign any of their five free agents, writes MLB.com’s Jen Langosch. That means that Justin Masterson, A.J. Pierzynski, Mark Ellis and perhaps most notably, lifetime Cardinal Jason Motte and the resurgent Pat Neshek are ticketed for new jerseys. Neshek is probably the most intriguing of the bunch, as the 34-year-old signed a minor league deal last offseason but earned an All-Star nod en route to a final ERA of 1.87 in 67 1/3 innings with 9.1 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9.

Rays Sign Michael Kohn To Major League Deal

The Rays have inked right-hander Michael Kohn to a one-year, major league contract, the club announced today. With the move, Tampa’s 40-man roster is now full for the time being.

Kohn, 28, elected free agency after being designated for assignment and outrighted in early September by the Angels. That move was confusing on the surface, as Kohn owns a 3.52 ERA across 76 2/3 frames since the start of 2013 and strikes out batters at a handy 9.2 per-nine clip.

But those numbers are not quite supported by Kohn’s peripherals; ERA estimators suggest that he may have benefited from a low home run-to-flyball rate and a .192 BABIP-against. At root, the concern with Kohn was his badly-slipping control. He ended up issuing 7.6 free passes per nine last year, including a troubling ten over his last 5 1/3 frames. Neither was the problem contained to his MLB time: Kohn walked 27 in his 34 Triple-A innings.


AL East Links: Rays, Maddon, Cruz, Duquette, Red Sox

New Rays president of baseball operations Matthew Silverman told reporters, including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, that he has no plans to hire a GM (Twitter link). Silverman seems poised to head up the baseball ops department by himself, whereas former GM and new Dodgers president of baseball ops Andrew Friedman is reportedly on the hunt for a GM in a setup that will be similar to that of the Cubs (Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer) and the Marlins (Dan Jennings/Michael Hill). Silverman isn’t expecting further changes to Tampa’s scouting or player development departments, either.

More from the AL East…

  • Even after Friedman left for the Dodgers, Maddon voiced his commitment to the Rays to reporters and said he expected to talk about an extension with the club. Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune was among the reporters yesterday to speak to Silverman and hear the newly minted head of baseball ops state that he expects his manager to be with the team in 2015 and beyond. However, Silverman stopped short of saying an extension would be done this winter. “We’ve been comfortable with Joe managing in the final year of his contract. It may not be ideal, but it’s always a possibility,” said Silverman. “…I hope we all wake up one day and you see that Joe’s here even longer than he’s signed for today.”
  • Following his team’s exit from the postseason, Nelson Cruz repeated to reporters, including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko (Twitter link), that he wants to return to the Orioles. Cruz said he loves both the organization and the team, but as Kubatko notes, he’s sure to be looking for a sizable free agent deal after leading the Majors in homers this season and having to settle for a one-year, $8MM contract last winter. Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun has a full article with quotes from Cruz on his time in Baltimore.
  • Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan examined the Orioles‘ roster and concluded that GM Dan Duquette has done an excellent job in focusing on raising his team’s floor while many clubs are more focused on raising the ceiling. Duquette has prioritized a deep roster, and Sullivan uses negative WAR as a means of illustrating this fact. Over the past three seasons, the Orioles have received the sixth-lowest cumulative negative WAR total, suggesting that while they may not always have a lot of star power, they don’t stock up on expensive stars while punting roster spots at the bottom of their 25-man group. In this season alone, Baltimore gave just 3.2 percent of its innings to negative-WAR pitchers (league average, excluding Baltimore, was 13.4) and 3.2 percent of its plate appearances to negative-WAR position players (league average, excluding Baltimore, was 19.4). Sullivan also notes that Friedman is a master of this (the Rays have the lowest negative WAR total over the past three seasons), making it one way in which the Dodgers, who had the sixth-most negative WAR, can improve quickly.
  • Though the Red Sox are known to be in pursuit of elite starting pitching this offseason, Alex Speier of WEEI.com writes that perhaps they should be placing a more significant emphasis on improving the team’s defense. Speier points out how superior both the Royals and Orioles were to the Red Sox in terms of defense and speculates that Shane Victorino‘s tremendous defensive upside is enough that those clamoring to trade him should rethink their stance. He also points out that the third base trio of Will Middlebrooks, Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt combined to make 24 fewer plays than a league-average third baseman in 2014 before highlighting the strong defensive reputation of free agents Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley.

Reactions To & Fallout From Friedman Joining Dodgers

Earlier today, the Dodgers and Rays announced the stunning news that Rays GM Andrew Friedman would leave his post to become the new president of baseball operations for the Dodgers. The move shook the baseball world and, obviously, comes with some significant ramifications not only for the teams involved but for the entire game.

MLBTR’s Zach Links participated in the conference call after the announcement, and reported on the thoughts and observations of owner Stuart Sternberg and new GM Matthew Silverman. Hare are some more reactions and fallout from the news of the day …

  • For the Dodgers, the move to add Friedman is a part of a broader shift towards modernizing baseball operations, Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports. If the launch of big spending and major moves was phase one of the new ownership group’s plans, then Friedman will be entrusted to engineer phase two: a bid to make the Dodgers the powerhouse franchise and brand of the 21st century, driven by a traditional scout-and-develop approach that is informed and supplemented by analytics and a robust war chest.
  • Baseball America’s John Manuel opines that Friedman got out of the Rays organization at the right time (Twitter link). The Rays have had some rough drafts in recent years, resulting in a thin farm system, while the Dodgers’ minor league system has far more high-end prospects, he writes.
  • ESPN’s Buster Olney suggests that Friedman is likely to hire a GM to work underneath him, much like the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer pairing with the Cubs (Twitter link). Olney speculates that Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen and Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler are candidates.
  • One Dodgers source told Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com that the Dodgers’ failed pursuit of David Price this summer, ironically, heightened their interest in Friedman. Said the source: “They always asked for the right prospects. Not just the guys everybody knows, either.”
  • On the managerial front, the Dodgers are expected to stick with Don Mattingly for next year, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Meanwhile, Joe Maddon said he remains committed to steering the Rays, and even said he expects to talk extension over the coming offseason, as Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune reports on Twitter.
  • Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus writes (subscription required) that Friedman will bring his “black box” of subtle tricks with him to Los Angeles, and will likely make his impact in many nuanced ways. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs says that the Dodgers seem likely to launch into a tighter spending model more reminiscent of the recent-vintage Red Sox, with Friedman hopefully delivering continued on-field results at a lower price tag.

Rays Ponder Life Without Andrew Friedman

With Andrew Friedman heading west, the Rays are confident that the newly-promoted Matthew Silverman can continue to work creatively with a limited budget to field a competitive team.  At the same time, it’s clear that Friedman will be sorely missed on both a professional and personal level.  Silverman, still just 38 years old, got the promotion of a lifetime, but he isn’t exactly doing cartwheels down the aisles of Tropicana Field tonight.

It’s a difficult day for me,” the former team president and new president of baseball operations admitted on today’s conference call.  “It’s one filled with sadness as one of my best friends in life has moved away and taken a different job.  That’s the primary emotion, though I’m sure I’ll feel differently a few days or a few weeks from now.

For those of us outside of the Rays and Dodgers organizations, whispers that Friedman could leave for Los Angeles only surfaced late last week when Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times reported that he would be the Dodgers’ top target if Ned Colletti was ousted.  Rays owner Stuart Sternberg indicated that talks started up earlier than that, though he declined to “put a timetable on it.”  The Rays will receive no compensation from the Dodgers for their top exec thanks to Sternberg’s no-contract policy for the upper crust of club officials.  I asked Sternberg if he ever considered altering his policy for Friedman considering the interest he could garner from rival clubs.

That’s our policy, for better or for worse.  There are positives with it and negatives with it,” Sternberg said, emphasizing that most employees within the organization have contracts, just not the top baseball people. “It’s a unique situation with Andrew and Matt and [new team president Brian Auld]…I put my reputation in their hands and they in mine as well and we have a real level of trust.  When it comes to the contract that’s what it’s really all about and it was never really a consideration with Andrew.”

When asked if he fears Friedman taking other Rays employees with him to L.A., Sternberg referred back to the level of trust that they share.  Whether it’s through a handshake or just a tacit understanding, both Sternberg and Silverman expressed confidence that Friedman won’t poach anyone from Tampa Bay.  That extends to manager Joe Maddon who told the owner that he wants to stay on board despite Friedman’s departure.  “I don’t expect anyone to be joining him in L.A.,” Sternberg flatly stated.   Reading between the lines, it appears that the owner doesn’t have poaching protection in writing.  If that’s the case, he doesn’t sound the least bit concerned about it.

Sternberg will miss Friedman, whom he entrusted with the GM role at the age of 28, and Silverman learned that watching your best friend move to a new town doesn’t get any easier when you’re in your late 30s.  Still, the Rays aren’t throwing themselves a pity party.  Sternberg knew that, eventually, a team with deeper pockets would whisk Friedman away.  When the Dodgers came calling, he didn’t think about looking out-of-house for a second.  All along, he knew that he had a highly capable understudy in Silverman who was ready to take the reins.


Dodgers Hire Andrew Friedman As President Of Baseball Operations

The Rays and Dodgers have announced the franchise-altering news that Andrew Friedman will be leaving his role as GM of the Rays to become the new president of baseball operations for the Dodgers. Now-former Dodgers GM Ned Colletti will remain in the organization as an adviser to president Stan Kasten, while Rays president Matthew Silverman will now oversee baseball operations in St. Petersburg. Former VP of business operations Brian Auld will now fill Silverman’s former role of president.

Andrew Friedman In a prepared statement, Friedman had the following to say about his time with the Rays:

“As I embark upon my next journey, I have only thanks and gratitude to the Rays organization and the Tampa Bay region for a wonderful 10 years together. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have been part of something so special and for the passion and support of this exceptional fan base. The Rays organization is loaded with talent from ownership to players and everyone between. We were able to create together an unbelievable culture that no doubt will continue, and I am absolutely confident that the successes we achieved will continue into the future.”

Clearly, the move comes as a significant blow to the Rays, who will lose one of the most respected baseball executives in the entire game. And, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets, Friedman worked for the Rays without a contract, so there will be no compensation heading to the Rays from the Dodgers. Friedman is considered by many to be a wizard of sorts, turning the low-budget Rays into a perennial contender despite low revenue stemming from attendance issues and a dilapidated stadium. The Rays have only twice had a payroll over $70MM in Friedman’s tenure, so even amid reports that the Dodgers will scale back spending, to an extent, Friedman should have significantly more than double 2014’s Rays franchise-record $76MM payroll.

Friedman’s work with a modest payroll has garnered limitless praise from peers and pundits alike. Some of the 37-year-old Tulane grad’s most recognizable moves include a pair of extensions for Evan Longoria (the most recent of which guarantees him $100MM over six years); acquiring Ben Zobrist for Aubrey Huff and eventually signing him to a four-year, $18MM extension with two club options; the acquisition of Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett for Delmon Young; signing Matt Moore to a five-year, $14MM contract with three club options; signing Chris Archer to a five-year, $20MM extension; and acquiring Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis. (For a full list of Friedman’s moves while with the Rays, check out MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker.)

Incredibly, Friedman’s hiring and the reassignment of Colletti means that four of the five teams in the National League West have made a GM change in a five-month span. The Padres dismissed Josh Byrnes late in June, and the D’Backs dismissed Kevin Towers in September. Dan O’Dowd resigned from the Rockies last week after declining an extension offer (Jeff Bridich was named the team’s new GM), and now Friedman has a new role in a new organization at Colletti’s expense.

Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times recently noted that Colletti’s job was in peril and reported that Friedman was the team’s top target as a replacement. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the two sides have been talking “for weeks,” adding that negotiations predate the Dodgers’ disappointing exit from the National League Division Series at the hands of the Cardinals.

Topkin first reported that Friedman was leaving and Silverman would oversee Rays baseball operations (Twitter link). Sherman tweeted that Friedman would be the Dodgers’ new GM. ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne reported that Colletti would remain with the Dodgers as an adviser (Twitter link). Topkin tweeted that Auld would be the new Rays president.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


East Notes: A-Rod, Rays, Nationals, Braves

The Yankees have a mess on their hands as they look to assemble their 2015 roster and the presence of Alex Rodriguez complicates matters, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The Bombers hope that A-Rod can contribute at third at least on a part-time basis and serve as a solid DH option. If he can do neither, they’re unlikely to cut him due to his three-year, $61MM deal. Not only would it look bad for ownership, but A-Rod needs to fully show he can’t play if there is any chance of recouping some of that money through insurance. More from the AL and NL East..

  • If the Dodgers come calling for Rays GM Andrew Friedman, the opportunity will have appeal, but it’s not a given that he’d go, as Roger Mooney of The Tampa Tribune writes. Friedman enjoys the challenge of competing with the Yankees and Red Sox with fewer resources and is loyal to Tampa Bay owner Stuart Sternberg. By the same token, the challenge may not motivate him the same way forever.
  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times agrees that Friedman has a comfortable situation with the Rays.  When considering his relationships with Sternberg, team president Matt Silverman, and manager Joe Maddon, Friedman has something in Tampa Bay that few other decision makers enjoy.
  • Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider looks at the Nationals‘ second base options for 2015. If the Nationals wants to stick with what they know, they can re-sign Asdrubal Cabrera or give Danny Espinosa another shot at earning the job. Otherwise, they’ll have to go out of house.  The free agent market is rather thin at the position, especially if the Rays pick up Ben Zobrist‘s $7.5MM option.  However, teams like the Rangers, Diamondbacks, and Cubs are deep with middle infielders and could be potential trade partners.
  • The time is now for the next wave of the Braves‘ homegrown talent like Christian Bethancourt and pitchers Alex Wood, Shae Simmons, and Chasen Shreve to step up and become bigger contributors in 2015, opines Bill Ballew of Baseball America (subscription required).