Andrew Friedman does it again.
Being General Manager of the Tampa Bay Rays can’t be all that fun. The stadium stinks, you’re in the division with the Yankees and Red Sox, and your payroll is like an eight of what theirs are. Somehow, Andrew Friedman makes it work.
Friedman has been the General Manager of the Rays since 2006. He took over a team with little to no hope. Every one thought there would be no conceivably way to compete in that division. Friedman’s Rays have proved the naysayers wrong since 2008 when the Rays reached the Fall Classic.
The first move that sent the Rays in the right direction was drafting and locking up Evan Longoria. Longoria played a total of two weeks before Friedman saw enough to sign him to a contract extension. If you are unfamiliar with how baseball contracts work, let me try to explain it to you.
If Evan Longoria didn’t sign an extension, he would have made close to the league minimum for at maximum three years. Since Longoria was an obvious talent, he would have “Super-Two’d”. Super two is a term used for a player who is in the upper echelon at his position with over two years of service time. Longoria would have had his first arbitration year in 2010. The best third baseman in the game would have had a lofty raise. A multi-million dollar raise in fact. Instead, Longoria only made $950,000. In what would be his fourth year in arbitration today, Longoria would either have been making upwards to 10M for Tampa, or traded to a team that could afford him. Longoria has three more team controlled years on his contract.
Now to Matt Moore.
Moore is the top pitching prospect in baseball. He came onto the scene in late September winning in Yankee stadium and, shutting down the Rangers in the ALDS. The 22-year old lefty is without a doubt one of the names to watch for in 2012 and beyond. Friedman and the Rays recognized that locking him up to a 5-year, 14 million dollar deal. This buys out Moore’s arbitration years just like they bought out Longoria’s. By doing this, the Rays have saved multiple millions again.
This is strategy big market teams don’t need to worry about. There is no need for the Yankees or Red Sox to invest that much money up front to their prospects. Longoria could have flamed out. Then the Rays would have been on the hook until 2013. Matt Moore could throw his arm out, but it’s a low risk with extremely high rewards.
Friedman is the best GM in baseball because he is the best at doing his job. If Friedman was on a large market team, he would even be deadlier. The Rays aren’t going away any time soon.