A recent front office shake up has set the table for a new off-season for the Tampa Bay Rays, who were in a difficult position when Andrew Friedman, the de facto General Manager of the team, left for the Los Angeles Dodgers with Gerry Hunsicker back in 2014.
Team President Matt Silverman had been involved in baseball decisions, playing a significant roll in high level trades like that of David Price, but was never truly a baseball operations guy. On the other hand, the Rays were not interested in hiring from outside the organization to fill the Friedman void, as the organization’s strategy has long been to reward their staff and promote from within.
To compromise, Silverman changed his title to President of Baseball Operations and the club named Brian Auld as Team President. Instead of installing a General Manager, the Rays promoted Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom to Vice President titles and divided the duties of a standard GM between them.
This was always meant to be a time of transition for the Rays, and two years into the new regime, the Rays are ready to hand over the reins.
Both Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom have been promoted to Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations, continuing to share responsibilities according to their areas of expertise, but the title change is an important one.
Tampa Bay typically only allows front office personnel to leave for a promotion, and it will be difficult to hire either executive — perennial contenders for GM openings across baseball — away for much less than a President role or a General Manager position with significant influence in an organization.
Since their time in the organization as Directors of Operations, Bloom and Neander have divided baseball operations responsibilities.
According to my understanding, Erik Neander’s focus has long been on player personnel, which includes player evaluation and acquisitions, as well as significant work with the team's research and development. As such, his SVP title will include the title General Manager, as trades and external player discussions go through him.
The GM title was previously not used by the Sternberg-led ownership group, but will serve the role of providing external clarity to the rest of the industry, even if there is no change in the leadership structure between Neander and Bloom.
Chaim Bloom has long served in a management position over player development, scouting, and contract negotiations, and will continue to do so. His promotion to SVP retains his parity with Neander, but he is not given a secondary title.
Of course, the Cerberus must have three heads, though. Accordingly, the Rays have promoted analytics director James Click to a Vice President role, cementing him into an Assistant GM like role from which he will be difficult to pry away.
Matt Silverman retains his title as President of Baseball Operations, but his role shifts away from daily management activities, as he told Marc Topkin:
"Going forward, the charge is the same with my focus shifting away from daily management and more towards our longer term vision and priorities. When it comes to key decisions, we will all work closely together."
This appears to be more akin to his previous involvement, but with two men taking the place of Friedman. This “evolution” of the front office is certainly unique to the Rays, but reflects the natural growth of their executive personnel as the Rays look to prevent any further brain drain from the front office.
The Rays previously lost Director of Player Personnel Matt Arnold to the Brewers, where he was given an Assistant GM role.