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Matt Silverman the GM, Part 1: Inheriting a messy situation

Matt Silverman
Matt Silverman
Tampa Bay Rays / Skip Milos

Now that the off-season is incoming, we'll have opportunities to look back at the full year's sample size, dissect who did well and why (or the opposite), and run whatever numbers and observations jump off the page. We've already run an article on just how paltry that catchers performed, and will continue the series in short order -- but first, some appreciation.

Brand new de facto GM Matt Silverman inherited a mess of a roster when Andrew Friedman departed, one that had been competitive in 2013 but lost it's way the following season. 77 wins was all the Rays could muster, and this year might end the same. At least this time it wasn't under the weight of unnecessary contracts.

This small-market roster was loaded with fair-value deals once 2014 concluded. David DeJesus, James Loney, Joel Peralta, Yunel Escobar, Grant Balfour and (let's not forget) Jose Molina were not collectively going to propel the Rays to the playoffs in 2015, and worked more as an encumbrance for the team's outlook.

If Matt Silverman was going to set the table, he first had to remove the grime.

Player Contract Guaranteed Including Options Paid by Rays Amount Due
Yunel Escobar $13,000,000 $19,000,000 $0 -
James Loney $18,333,333 - $8,666,666 $9,666,667
David DeJesus $6,000,000 $10,000,000 $3,100,000* -
Joel Peralta $2,500,000 $7,500,000 $0 -
Grant Balfour $7,000,000 - $7,000,000 -
Jose Molina $2,750,000 - $2,750,000 -
TOTAL $49,583,333
$21,516,666 $9,666,667

*Amount of salary paid before mid-season trade

Of the nearly $50M in commitments that could have been off-loaded to start the season, the Rays paid off two contracts that were dead weight (Balfour, Molina), traded two before the season began (Escobar, Peralta), and held on to the two pieces that offered value (DeJesus, Loney).

When the injury plague struck the Rays, and some 30 odd players intended for the 25-man roster found themselves injured or out for the season, the Rays became minimal sellers at the trade deadline. They shipped off David DeJesus, and flipped Kevin Jepsen for great value. He had replaced Matt Joyce on the roster, and will make something like $7M between 2015-16. The Rays only paid ~$2M. Again, savings, but these two mid-season trades were the death knell on the Rays season.

This raises what the question as to what constitutes success for the GM. Is it making the post-season, or just being in position to?

The injuries didn't stop the Rays bullpen from over-achieving in April, or the offense from rising 10 games above .500 in May, but the rest of the season was a downward trod. The starting rotation found quality contributions from Chris Archer in ace formand Jake Odorizzi, and found surprising surety in pieces no one anticipated needing out of Spring Training in Nate Karns and the acquired Erasmo Ramirez.

Rounded out by bullpen pitchers, the Rays rotation could only tread water for so long. The returns of Drew Smyly and Matt Moore from their sever injuries were underwhelming. Although both have shown signs of putting it back together at the end of this season, neither helped buoy what the Rays would need for post-season contention.

When the team was 10 games over .500, there were not moves to be made. The Rays had risen above, and then spiraled to the trade deadline. Matt Silverman then judged the season lost, and removed two key pieces without replacing them on the roster. So again, what is success? Perhaps for this team it is profitability.

After all, we do call this "ball on a budget."

Looking back at the table above, Silverman was able to save a cool $18.4M in guaranteed money that the Rays might have been better off without, keeping only James Loney on the roster. In 2015, Loney will have missed a third of the year and provided negative value. Perhaps this will be another instance of the Rays eating guaranteed money, but if the team can find a taker for his $10M remaining, Silverman will look all the better.

The most glaring hole from the previous season, however, was Ben Zobrist. He would be replaced on the roster at his position by Logan Forsythe, and at the plate by John Jaso the new Designated Hitter. That deal netted Jaso and some solid prospects, and shipped out Escobar's contract.

Unfortunately, the Rays wouldn't get the immediate results intended. While Forsythe had a career year at the plate, Jaso was injured after his first plate appearance and did not return for most of the season. That deal, in the way it made me feel emotionally, the promise it offers for the future in young SS Daniel Robertson, his pythons for arms, and OF Boog Powell, and the hollow feeling it left this year sums up this season perfectly.

That's a lot of ranting, so next let's take stock. In my next piece, we'll go move-by-move through the transactions made by GM Silverman. I think you'll find there was even more to appreciate.