Tampa Bay Rays: Mookie Betts Trade a Reminder of Sternberg’s Brilliance
By Seth Carter
The baseball world was jolted by two former Tampa Bay Rays’ executives, on the same day another one was introduced as general manager.
Two former Tampa Bay Rays’ executives have struck a blockbuster deal. The Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers were at the core of a massive trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers.
Andrew Friedman has not spent more than $55 million on any free agent since taking the helm in Los Angeles.
Boston appears to be blowing it up under newly acquired Chief Baseball Officer (and former Rays Senior VP) Chaim Bloom.
Friedman landed in LA prior to the 2015 season. Since that time, he has avoided long-term contracts like the plague.
Last offseason the Dodgers reportedly offered Bryce Harper a four-year deal worth $45 million per year. Harper declined the offer as players are looking for the opposite of what the Dodgers are offering: long-term security.
The Dodgers are getting superstar power without overspending on the free-agent market and the Red Sox are shedding some of their gaudy payroll expenses and presumably achieving the goal of getting under the luxury tax.
Both teams are following a blueprint that was written in St. Petersburg.
After working as a financial analyst, Andrew Friedman joined the Rays in 2004. By 2006 he was in charge of the team. In 2008 he led them to a World Series. Friedman was named Sporting News’ Baseball Executive of the Year.
The Dodgers are stocked with a mix of young talent and veterans, whom Friedman is happy to sign to extensions (e.g. Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, and Justin Turner).
Meanwhile in Boston…
Chaim Bloom is just settling into his new role at the reigns of one of baseball’s most storied franchises. Bloom was hired by Friedman out of Yale in 2005.
Bloom’s hiring was a correction by the Red Sox. The Red Sox were spending money like they were elected officials. Here’s a look at some of the contracts that had them so cash-strapped.
- David Price: 7 yrs/$217 million (through 2022)
- Chris Sale: 5 yrs / $145 million (through 2024)
- Rusney Castillo: 7 yrs / $72.5 million (through 2020)
- Xander Bogaerts 6 yrs / $120 million (through 2025)
- Dustin Pedroia 6 yrs / $85 million (through 2021)
- Nathan Eovaldi 4 yrs / $68 million (through 2022)
Under Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox won three-straight division titles and the 2018 World Championship. Regardless of the reason for his firing, the Red Sox have clearly shifted gears with the Chaim Bloom hiring.
Bloom has been presented with a depleted farm system and a very expensive roster that won 84 games in 2019.
Tuesday night may have set the tone for what the future has in store for the Red Sox. It may not be exciting to lose the best player in the game, but they got something (Alex Verdugo) out of him. In true Rays’ fashion, they looked at letting him hit free agency as giving him away for free.
The Rays’ Way
The Rays are notorious for being very disciplined in their player valuations. We’ve heard Andrew Friedman discuss sticking to his valuations in Los Angeles and we’ve recently heard Rays’ owner, Stuart Sternberg discuss the same topic at this year’s winter meetings.
Here’s Sternberg discussing his valuation of (then) free-agent shortstop, Didi Gregorius:
"Look, perfect example, if we needed a shortstop, (Didi) Gregorius, I guess, just signed for $14 million (with the Phillies). If he was $10 million, we’d sign Gregorius."
The Rays recently bid adieu to Senior VP-Erik Neander’s right-hand man, James Click, as he was appointed the Houston Astros’ new general manager.
Two of the last three World Series Champions and a perennial big-market contender have stocked their front offices with executives trained in the Rays’ way.
As much as fans are angry with Stu Sternberg right now, he’s a huge part of why the Rays have had success despite living near the bottom of the league in revenue and attendance. Andrew Friedman was hired by Stu Sternberg after they met and realized they were of like-minds when it came to the game of baseball.
Under Sternberg, the Rays have become an incubator for the league’s future executives. The teams with the deepest pocketbooks are looking to the Rays to make sure they aren’t wasting their money.
This trade served as a reminder.
Do you think the Red Sox will still be a formidable foe in 2020?