The GM's Office: Tampa Bay Rays

Executives under the most pressure 

December, 7, 2014
Dec 7
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Andrew FriedmanKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsDodgers president Andrew Friedman will be under pressure at this year's winter meetings.
With baseball's winter meetings set to begin in San Diego, here are the five executives who are under the most pressure:


1. Andrew Friedman, Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers ownership decided they were going to put together the most expensive baseball operations department in the history of the sport, to couple with the game's biggest player payroll. With that comes the most pressure of any front office in the game.

Friedman’s rookie offseason with the Dodgers has seen the exit of Hanley Ramirez, and some smaller acquisitions, including trades that brought in pitchers Juan Nicasio and Joel Peralta and outfielders Chris Heisey and Kyle Jensen. On the surface, these moves look more like small-market deals than the Hollywood blockbusters that would help the team improve after a 94-win season.

The Dodgers have to move Andre Ethier at these meetings to finally eradicate the crowded outfield problem, and must also fill the need of a stopgap shortstop until top prospect Corey Seager is ready.

Dissecting the Rays' managerial search 

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
11:57
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Don Wakamatsu, Kevin Cash, and Raul IbanezGetty Images, USA TODAY Sports, USA TODAY SportsThe Rays will choose either Don Wakamatsu, Kevin Cash or Raul Ibanez as their next manager.
With some offseason dominoes having already fallen around Major League Baseball, let's check in with the latest buzz on the biggest topics around the sport:

The Tampa Bay Rays' managerial search

The Rays' managerial search took another bizarre twist Friday when it was announced that their three finalists were Don Wakamatsu, Raul Ibanez and Kevin Cash. Their initial list of eight individuals to interview was puzzling to begin with, considering just two of those candidates were former big league managers: Wakamatsu and Manny Acta.

Wakamatsu's first managerial stint lasted only 274 games with the Seattle Mariners, and he was 28 games under .500 when he was fired in 2010. Acta has six years of MLB managerial experience, but his career win percentage is just .418, and he hasn't had a winning season.

But the surprising part wasn't that those two got interviews; they're both solid baseball men and deserve another chance. Instead, it was more about which experienced managers did not get an interview.

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Trade deadline objectives: AL East 

July, 28, 2014
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Dan Duquette and Buck ShowalterAP Photo/Gene J. PuskarOrioles GM Dan Duquette made multiple trades before the 2012 and 2013 trade deadlines.
Deadline objectives: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West

It's looking like the AL East could become quite a race, with two teams (the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees) being within four games of the division-leading Baltimore Orioles, with the fourth-place Tampa Bay Rays having won nine of their past 10 games. Only the last-place Boston Red Sox check in as potential sellers, though we're not quite sure what the Rays will do at this point.

With that, let's have a look at the AL East deadline objectives:

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David Price trade timeline in doubt 

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
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David PriceAP Photo/Carlos OsorioThere are doubts David Price will be traded prior to the deadline, and the cost might be too high.

Many contending teams interested in David Price now aren't sure the Tampa Bay Rays will actually trade him before the trade deadline.

The impression teams are getting is that if the Rays manage to get back in the playoff chase, they will hang on to Price, and if they don't, they will trade him only if they get a better package than what the Chicago Cubs got for Jeff Samardzija, which eliminates a number of possible suitors.

The Rays would be looking for

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The Oakland Athletics and Chicago Cubs kicked off the baseball trade fireworks on the Fourth of July with a blockbuster deal that sent starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland for prospects Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, among others.

With three weeks left until the trade deadline, here are four more blockbuster trades I'd like to happen:



San Diego Padres-Los Angeles Angels

Padres receive: 2B Taylor Lindsey, 3B Kaleb Cowart, SS Jose Rondon, and RHPs R.J. Alvarez and Victor Alcantara

Angels receive: C Yasmani Grandal and reliever Huston Street

The Angels have the second best record in baseball behind only the Oakland Athletics, and if it weren't for 12 blown saves by their bullpen, they would have the best record in the majors. GM Jerry DiPoto has done a great job upgrading the bullpen the past couple weeks with the acquisitions of Jason Grilli (from the Pirates) and Joe Thatcher (from the Diamondbacks), but why stop there? A blockbuster to get one of the game's best closers, in Huston Street, would be huge.

Street, 30, is controllable though 2015 at an affordable $7 million per season. He's also having a career year, with 23 saves, a 1.13 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP. Add Street to the Angels' bullpen, and the team can start printing postseason tickets.

Grandal, who, at age 25, has yet to fully develop, would be the long-term catcher for the Angels and would benefit from playing under Mike Scioscia, a former All-Star catcher. Grandal has struggled the past two years at the plate, but his career numbers -- 16 homers, 64 RBIs and a slash line of .246/.349/.409 in 455 at-bats -- are still respectable. He would benefit from a change of scenery. He's a smart, good kid who I think would thrive in the Angels' environment, though he'd probably have to settle for a backup role this year.

In return, the Padres load up on prospects as their rebuilding program under the new GM gets under way.


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Ben ZobristRob Tringali/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesBen Zobrist's switch-hitting ability should appeal to many teams.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Ben Zobrist | 2B | Tampa Bay Rays

Possible destinations: Miami Marlins, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays




Miami Marlins

Why? Rafael Furcal batted .171 with a .216 on-base percentage for the Marlins prior to his injury. Ed Lucas is batting .256 with a .295 on-base percentage, Derek Dietrich is batting .228 with a .326 on-base, Jeff Baker is at .217 and .273, and Donovan Solano is at .182 and .241. In other words, second base has been by far the Marlins' weakest position from an offensive perspective, and it needs to be upgraded if they want to stay in contention in the second half. The fact that Zobrist is a switch-hitter capable of playing all infield and corner outfield positions also gives the Marlins much-needed depth around the diamond.

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David Price Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesMany believe it's only a matter of time before David Price gets traded.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: David Price | LHP | Tampa Bay Rays
Possible destinations: St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays


St. Louis Cardinals

Why? The Cardinals have had a plethora of pitching injuries lately, including shoulder injuries to Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia, a forearm injury to Kevin Siegrist, a hamstring injury to Joe Kelly and a back injury to Shelby Miller. A trade for Price would give them a postseason rotation of Price, Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn and Wacha, a group that compares favorably to those in Los Angeles (the Dodgers) and D.C.

Who? The Rays will start by asking for outfield prospect Oscar Tavares. If they could get Wil Myers for James Shields, then Tavares for Price only makes sense. However, St. Louis GM John Mozeliak will say "no," as he will when Rays GM Andrew Friedman follows up with "how about Wacha?"

Then the conversation will get serious and the Cardinals will probably have to part with either right-hander Miller or Carlos Martinez, as well as left-hander Marco Gonzalez.

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Five trade ideas involving David Price 

June, 18, 2014
Jun 18
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David PriceMike Carlson/Getty ImagesIt makes more sense for the Rays to trade David Price now than wait until this offseason.
The top-of-the-rotation pitcher most likely to be traded between now and the trade deadline is David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. Jeff Samardzija and Cliff Lee are also in the conversation, but the Cubs still could re-sign Samardzija, and a Lee trade would require a return to full health for him and a willingness to be traded to specific teams. The Rays don't have either obstacle with Price.

The Rays also know the best time to trade Price is now; the return won't be as high this offseason or next July as it will be over the next six weeks. So it's only matter of time before he's dealt to the highest bidder.

The most interesting aspect of a potential deal is that there aren't as many contending teams looking for a top-of-the-rotation starter as in the past. For example, in the National League, teams such as the Cardinals, Brewers, Reds, Giants, Dodgers and Nationals all have enough pitching at the top that they have no reason to empty their farm system to acquire Price. In fact, I would argue the Braves (who, by the way, have the best starting pitcher ERA in the league) are the only NL team likely to inquire about Price.

In the American League, two of the top teams -- Oakland and Detroit -- also probably won't be bidding, though I'd never put anything past A's GM Billy Beane, based on his track record.

The Rays could get a large package for Price -- as many as four or five prospects -- but it's more likely they'll shoot for quality over quantity and end up with a two-for-one or three-for-one deal, with the possibility of more players being thrown in by either side. For the purpose of this exercise, I'll try to find the best two-for-one or three-for-one deals that could be offered for Price.

Here are the five teams I view most likely to trade for Price, along with potential deals involving each club:

1. Los Angeles Angels

The Angels appear to be the favorite to win the American League's first wild-card berth, and they actually have a legitimate shot of overtaking the Oakland A's and winning the West. A deal for Price would certainly seal the deal, and the Angels have enough to make it work. They might not have the young starting pitching the Rays would ideally seek, but they do have the bats to get it done. C.J. Cron would have to be the central piece in the deal, and given his potential to develop into a 30-homer, middle-of-the-lineup hitter, he'd be a perfect fit for the Rays, who are trying to build the middle of their lineup to complement Evan Longoria and Wil Myers. Sure, the Rays have James Loney signed for two more years, but the Rays could have Cron and Loney share the first base and DH slots until Loney's deal is up, or they could trade Loney this offseason, given his affordable contract.

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Top 10 early trade candidates 

May, 12, 2014
May 12
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David PriceKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsIn what has become a yearly refrain, David Price should be on the July 31 deadline trading block.
The July 31 trade deadline is a little less than three months away. While every team is focused primarily on the draft right now, they’re also realizing that because of the sport’s parity and competitive balance, there could be fewer “sellers” at this year’s deadline than perhaps we’ve seen in decades.

In fact, there are just three teams more than 4 games out of the postseason: the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks.

I expect that group of teams to grow between now and the middle of July, but it will be no larger than more than seven or eight teams. With so few sellers expected, the asking prices for top talent will be exorbitant.

Here is my early list of 10 trade candidates to watch:

1. David Price | LHP | Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are hoping to be in a pennant race come the end of July, but after the season-ending injury to Matt Moore and a below .500 start, Price will have to be considered the early most sought after trade candidate in baseball. General manager Andrew Friedman knows that he’ll get more value for Price at the July trade deadline than he will in the offseason with only one year left on Price’s contract.

Further hurting Friedman's leverage is the fact that Price is off to a slow start, and he'll be hoping to get a haul similar to the one he received for James Shields prior to the 2013 season.

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Manny MachadoBrad Penner/USA TODAY SportsManny Machado is one of several young stars Jim Bowden would lock up long term now.
As baseball’s revenues continue to break records year over year, clubs are well aware that, based on baseball history, those revenues normally get passed right down to the players.

Indeed, we’ve recently seen a flurry of six-year contract extensions by clubs for non-arbitration-eligible players in the past few months, including:

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels, $144.5 million
Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians, $23 million
Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves, $32.4 million
Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays, $25.5 million
Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians, $52.5 million

In addition to those six-year deals, there was also Freddie Freeman's eight-year, $135 million extension, which is the longest contract in Braves history.

This proactive method benefits the team and the player. For the teams, they get to pre-emptively buy out some of the player's free-agent years, which should save them millions of dollars considering the ridiculous pace at which free-agent salaries are escalating. In exchange, the players receive lifetime security yet are still able to test the free-agent market again at a reasonably young age.

The Trout deal broke records at almost every aspect, and the Teheran and Archer deals were riskier because of pitchers’ greater chance of landing on the disabled list at some point in their six-year contract.

Gomes was the biggest gamble because he hasn’t established the track record the others did to justify committing those types of dollars. Regardless of the risk, clubs cannot ignore the opportunity to save so much money, making contracts such as these no-brainers.

When I look around the league, I see a number of other candidates for these kind of long-term deals. Here are nine pre-arbitration players I think teams would have a chance to lock up, plus four Boras Corp. clients who probably have very little chance to sign now -- Scott Boras almost always recommends his players hold out for free agency ASAP -- but should try anyway.

As always, agents will use recent deals as a framework when negotiating, and I've noted some recent deals that would provide a guideline for each player in question.

Non-arbitration-eligible players clubs should extend now

1. Manny Machado | 3B | Service time: 1+056 | Agent: MVP Sports

Note: Service time is as of Opening Day, and "1+056" means one year, 56 days.

Machado had offseason knee surgery and started the year on the disabled list, so of course the Orioles will need to make sure he is 100 percent upon his return before doing a deal. However, once he is back to full strength, they should be aggressive in getting him locked up. The time will never be better, the price and value never lower.

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GM awards for best trades, signings 

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
11:55
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Billy Beane and Brian CashmanGetty Images, AP PhotoBilly Beane and Brian Cashman enjoyed very fruitful offseasons.
I'm all packed with spring training just days away. So before I depart I thought it was time to give my offseason awards and hand out some hardware to the general managers for their offseason work.

BEST OFFSEASON -- BIG-MARKET GM: Brian Cashman | New York Yankees

It was the most expensive free-agent spending spree in baseball history when the Yankees committed a combined $438 million for 22 years of contracts to Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. The Yankees quickly rebuilt their outfield, catching and starting pitching with All-Star caliber players and imported the best overall talent of any team in baseball this offseason. They also get credit for walking away from Robinson Cano by refusing to acquiesce to 10 years and approximately $240 million for a player in his 30s.

Runners-up:
Jon Daniels, Texas Rangers:

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GM buzz: Latest on free agents 

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3
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Nelson Cruz Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsNelson Cruz is still looking for a home. Will he find one in Seattle?
With pitchers and catchers due to report to spring training in a couple of weeks, the rumor mill continues to churn because many quality free agents are still on the market, including: Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo, Paul Maholm, Stephen Drew and Nelson Cruz.

Why are so many players still on the market? Well, the agents and union have their theory, while the clubs have a different view. Multiple agents representing free agents who are still on the market told me over the weekend that they, as well as the players' union, are concerned that social networking and the media’s advanced coverage of the sport are hurting the market value of their clients.

Some even went so far as to suggest that teams are possibly violating the clause in the collective bargaining agreement that prevents clubs from influencing a free agent's market value by relaying to the media the offers they’ve made to free agents, and whether clubs plan to make an offer or decline to make an offer. Certainly media coverage of baseball’s offseason is the best it’s ever been, but these conclusions have very little merit when you look at the enormous contracts that were given out this offseason to the likes of Robinson Cano, Clayton Kershaw and Masahiro Tanaka, among others.

On the other hand, general managers and assistant GMs have a different opinion. The majority believe the main reason so many free agents remain on the market is that all have some type of negative issue surrounding them, whether that's injury history, a performance-enhancing drug suspension, career inconsistency or draft-pick compensation. GMs also point to the agents’ inflated expectations in terms of years and dollars considering the risks associated with these players.

With that in mind, here’s the latest scuttlebutt from the front offices around the league.

Where will they land?

David Price is staying in Tampa. Rays GM Andrew Friedman has listened to every club that had a trade proposal for Price and came away knowing his best decision is to keep him and try to win this year.

The Rays know that trading Price at the deadline probably won’t be an option because the team will be in a pennant race, so it will be next offseason when he’s finally traded.

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The GM stars of winter 

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
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General Manager Billy Beane of the Oakland AthleticsMichael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty ImagesOakland GM Billy Beane worked some serious magic this offseason.
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman certainly made the biggest splash this offseason, spending more than $440 million on free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka. After trading for Prince Fielder and signing Shin-Shoo Choo, Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels probably made the second loudest noise.

However, if history has taught baseball GMs anything, teams that make the biggest moves rarely end up winning the World Series. Just ask Los Angeles Angels GM Jerry Dipoto, whose 2011 and 2012 teams disappointed greatly after the organization signed big-name free agents Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton in successive years.

So while Cashman and Daniels made big splashes, they weren’t the general manager stars of the offseason. That title belongs to a pair of small-market geniuses: the Oakland Athletics’ Billy Beane and the Tampa Bay Rays’ Andrew Friedman.

Indeed, much of baseball has grown accustomed to Beane and Friedman dominating the sport with limited resources and always finding ways to contend with the big-market teams who spend two and three times what they spend, and this offseason was no different.

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The missing link for every AL team 

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
12:43
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Matt Garza AP Photo/Colin E. BraleyIf the Los Angeles Angels lose out on Masahiro Tanaka, they should go after Matt Garza.
On Tuesday, I focused on the missing piece for every National League team heading in to spring training, and today we turn our attention to the American League.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Houston Astros

Missing link: Pitching prospects
Solution: Trade 3B Matt Dominguez for prospects
The Astros are doing a masterful job of following the blueprint of general manager Jeff Luhnow, building through the draft and player development while mixing in a few veteran free agents who will have some trade value at the deadline.

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BeltranAP Photo/John MinchilloWith FAs like Carlos Beltran, it will be tough for the Yankees to stay below the tax threshold.
Some big free-agent names were signed over the holiday season, but that doesn't mean the market is dried up. With many teams waiting on the final destination of Japanese free agent Masahiro Tanaka, several quality free-agent pitchers remain, as well as some trade possibilities.

Plenty of big moves are still likely to come. So, here are my 10 bold predictions of the rest of the offseason. Not all are personnel related, but most will have significant impact on teams or the game itself.

1. New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels go over the luxury-tax threshold
The Yankees have worked hard over the last couple of seasons to try and keep their payroll below $189 million dollars for this season, and the Angels have worked diligently this offseason to do the same.

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