Earlier this off-season, we began detailing the Rays' risk of losing talent in the front office to higher level jobs. The Rays front office used to be a cerberus of Andrew Friedman, Matt Silverman, and longtime Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker. The latter left for the Dodgers in 2014 and Friedman followed, leaving Silverman behind. His best option was to seek the comfort of what had been established, and he promoted from within.
2015 ended up being a strong performance for a front office that was essentially left holding the bag, as I graded in detail in a previous editorial series.
The team became sellers at the deadline, which I disagreed with somewhat, but that's a minor squabble when compared to the complete overhaul needed. Cerberus 2.0 of Matt Silverman, Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom were a post-season appearance shy of knocking it out of the park in just 12 months of work.
While the three combined for quality General Management, there still might seem to be lacking a grey beard high up in the front office, but we cannot overlook the addition of Bobby Heck mid-season. Here's what I wrote previously:
What the, Heck?
In June of this year, the Rays hired Bobby Heck to a full time roll as a Special Assistant to the Baseball Operations staff. Before that move, he was merely a special assignment scout for the franchise.
Previously serving as the Assistant GM and Director of Scouting for the Astros from 2007-2012, his contract was not renewed after 2012 and his job was eventually divided between heralded blogger Kevin Goldstein and the young scout Mike Elias.
Heck oversaw the drafting of several major leaguers, including Jason Castro, Jordan Lyles, J.D Martinez, Delino DeShields Jr., Mike Foltynewicz, Vincent Velasquez, George Springer, 2012 No. 1 overall selection Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, and Preston Tucker.
Joining the Rays in what likely was the Hunsicker role, it's not anticipated that Heck will have the same influence. When the Rays new ownership group took over, Hunsicker sat at the press conference table alongside Stu Sternberg. Heck's voice will be important, but I'm not entirely sure of its prominence.
An important update since that was written could be that Correa won this off-season's Rookie of the year award, but can you spot the a key player I left off of that list of prospects?
How about SP Dallas Kuechel, who won this off-season's Cy Young award, or the handful of prospects who were dealt by the current Astros regime to gear up for their successful 2015. These were detailed by Tracy Ringolsby for mlb.com, who recently interviewed heck on these accomplishments:
"You feel a sense of accomplishment," Heck admitted. "We had a philosophy and blueprint we followed, and it was the result of a lot of people who evaluated players and played a part in the decision-making."
If there is such a blueprint, the Rays are fortunate to bring that to their scouting department, and will hopefully look to cement his experience, philosophy, and expertise. Hired in June of 2014 in an advisory role, Heck has since been named to the full time staff under Silverman.
The front office would indeed be at risk for a brain drain, as Rays Director of Personnel Matt Arnold interviewed with multiple franchises before being named Assistant GM with the new-look Milwaukee Brewers. Honestly the Rays were fortunate not to lose more, as Bloom and Neander went to multiple interviews themselves.
Maybe it was just other franchises looking to plumb the Rays knowledge base for how operations is run, as might have been the case with the Phillies and Marlins, but departures are not uncommon. The stability enjoyed by the Rays in the first decade under Stu Sternberg's ownership is an abnormality in this industry. Cultivating the right blue prints and philosophies for the organization is what lasts.
We see it tangibly in the Rays clubhouse today, which relatively carried over it's relaxed atmosphere from Joe Maddon to Kevin Cash, and we can hope for the same in the front office, as the Rays look to pair forward thinking with better and better processes in the scouting department.