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.