Last month, the Rays announced they’d signed baseball operations leader Erik Neander to a multi-year contract extension that included a promotion from general manager to president of baseball operations. The team didn’t specify the contract’s exact length, but Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times now reports the extension tacked on an additional five seasons. Neander’s now locked up to run the club’s baseball operations through the 2026 campaign.
The Rays didn’t announce the deal until the first week of September, but Topkin adds the additional tidbit that it was actually agreed upon during the season’s first half. Going into the All-Star Break, the Rays sat half a game behind the Red Sox in the AL East standings. Tampa Bay went on a 47-25 tear in the season’s second half, though, coasting to a division title and their first 100-win season in franchise history. They’ve clinched home field advantage through the American League playoff field and will host the winner of tomorrow night’s Yankees – Red Sox Wild Card game in their Division Series.
That success has come in spite of one the game’s tightest player budgets. The Rays opened the season with a payroll just shy of $67MM, in the estimation of Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the fifth-lowest mark in the league. Neander and his staff have habitually managed to put together strong rosters in the face of those significant limitations, making it easy to see why owner Stuart Sternberg was anxious to keep him in the fold. Neander would certainly have drawn interest from other teams this offseason — the Mets have been connected to a handful of the sport’s highest-profile executives, in particular — which no doubt played into ownership’s decision to hammer out a long-term deal over the summer.