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Andrew Friedman and the Peril of Gentlemen’s Agreements

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How much do Executive Vice Presidents of Baseball Operations make? What about Presidents of Baseball Operations? I’d really like to know.

In the wake of Andrew Friedman’s trip from one sun-washed part of the country to another, you might wonder about the advantages of managing a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers as opposed to the Tampa Bay Rays. But surely it would be pertinent and interesting to know what multiple of his current although non-existent contract Stan Kasten had to pay for Friedman to take on the headache of Los Angeles. The salaries of players are readily available online, but the brass keep their numbers to themselves. It is rude to talk about, after all. In fact, for Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, it’s a little too blue(-collar?) to have these things written down. As a matter of policy, Rays execs (including Sternberg, but, come on, he’s the owner) have no contracts.

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Where does this come from? Like so much else about the Rays, it comes from Wall Street. It is common practice there to have no contacts actually written down, which gives the head honchos of companies more flexibility to fire or reassign employees suddenly and without cause. I also suppose you wouldn’t want to keep much written down for whenever the securities and exchange commission (the “other SEC” as it would have to be known in the South) has a few questions and wants to take a look. If we are looking at a more positive spin, though, it is a nice if nostalgic symbol harkening back to the days when men were men and handshakes meant something.

In any case, whether for honest or unscrupulous reasons, this no-contract policy has cost the Rays compensation from Los Angeles. Of course, you might suggest that the Dodgers in fact “owe” the Rays some compensation but have gotten off paying it on a technicality. Remember when Theo Epstein went to the Chicago Cubs? Epstein and Friedman were both heralded as the boy-geniuses of general managing. Epstein, however, seemed unable to refuse the challenge of dispelling the hex from both of baseball’s cursed clubs, and Friedman either got tired of putting together a quality team without a fan base or was tantalized by the indefinite depth of Stan Kasten’s pockets. In any case, they’re comparable wunderkinder.

The Cubs were compelled by the Office of the Commissioner to give the Boston Red Sox a right-handed pitcher with the name of Chris Carpenter (not the star, the other one). The sides ended up exchanging two PTBNL in addition to the swap of GM and (no, the other) pitcher. It is irrelevant that Carpenter’s career did not last long after he received surgery upon his arrival in Boston. He wasn’t a top prospect on the Cubs, but he wasn’t a throw-away piece either. Remember how protracted the discussion was? What’s relevant is that both teams thought he had enough potential that they both wanted to keep him. According to Brooks Baseball, Carpenter averaged 97.55 MPH on his fastball during his 9.2 innings with the Cubs in 2011.

In exchange for Friedman, who achieved comparable results to Epstein with much less money, Rays fans might have expected at least one of the players listed as “others” on a Dodgers top 20 prospect list. Maybe even higher than the “also ran” category, the Commissioner’s Office might have enforced a deal of Darnell Sweeney or Alex Verdugo. But because there’s no contract, any compensation would be noble but certainly not required from the Dodgers.

We know that in order for the Rays to succeed, Matthew Silverman and the remainder of the front office will need to draft well, sign good international amateurs, and keep looking for youth in the trade market. That doesn’t change whether the team is headed by Silverman or Andrew Friedman. Fans might hope for an offseason deal of some magnitude from Silverman. There’s a new sheriff in town, after all, and it would be nice if he felt the need to signal his arrival with a bang. However, we all expected the transition to start with the Rays receiving something in return for their former executive vice president of baseball operations, and instead, they will get nothing.

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