Rays reorganize front office with departure of Andrew Friedman

Andrew Friedman served as the Tampa Bay Rays executive vice president of baseball operations for nine seasons.

Kim Klement

After helping transform the Tampa Bay Rays from an American League East cellar-dweller to one of the majors’ most consistent franchises in the past six years, Andrew Friedman is leaving for Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Dodgers hired the former Tampa Bay Rays executive as president of baseball operations on Tuesday, ending his decade-long association with baseball in Florida’s Bay Area.

Friedman joined Tampa Bay in 2004 as an assistant of baseball development. He had served as the Devil Rays/Rays’ executive vice president of baseball operations since October 2005.

"As I embark upon my next journey, I have only thanks and gratitude to the Rays organization and the Tampa Bay region for a wonderful 10 years together," Friedman, 37, said in a statement. "I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have been part of something so special and for the passion and support of this exceptional fan base. The Rays organization is loaded with talent from ownership to players and everyone between. We were able to create together an unbelievable culture that no doubt will continue, and I am absolutely confident that the successes we achieved will continue into the future."

As part of the move, current Rays president Matt Silverman will replace Friedman and serve as the team’s president of baseball operations. Brian Auld, Tampa Bay’s senior vice president of business operations, was named team president. All job titles are effective Tuesday.

Under Friedman’s guidance, the Rays became one of the majors’ most steady franchises in recent years. Since 2008, Tampa Bay has made the playoffs four times, a run that included two division titles in 2008 and 2010, as well as a World Series appearance in 2008. The Rays’ evolution into a consistent winner in the AL East, traditionally one of the big leagues’ strongest divisions, is widely regarded as one of baseball’s greatest success stories of recent memory.

Tampa Bay won at least 90 games five times from 2008 to 2013, a streak that included three AL Division Series appearances (in 2010, ’11 and ’13), in addition to the AL pennant in 2008. From 1998 to 2007, the Rays reached the 70-victory mark just once, in 2004.

"We’ve been working at this for a period of time now, and we’ve been coordinating with Andrew as well, and it was clear to me that Matt was going to be the right person to step in," Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said. "He has worked very closely with Andrew and me and with Brian as well, but especially on the baseball side with Andrew.

"He was absolutely the right person to pick up the baton and take this thing forward."

Friedman’s absence ushers in an era of change for the Rays after uncommon stability. Friedman and manager Joe Maddon had worked together for nine seasons, the longest partnership of any active general manager and manager. A former analyst at the New York City-based Bear, Stearns & Co., Inc., and a one-time associate for MidMark Capital, Friedman became known as a savvy up-and-comer in executive circles, declining previous advances by the Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros.

Representing the Rays

But the Dodgers will provide Friedman an opportunity to use his strategies with a much larger payroll, one that had about $241 million committed to salary on Opening Day last season. By contrast, the Rays had a payroll of about $82 million.

"Personally, this is a very difficult day for me," Silverman said. "It’s one filled with sadness, and one of my best friends in life has moved away and taken a different job. And that’s the primary emotion. I’m sure I’ll feel differently a couple days from now and a couple weeks from now. I’ll be invigorated by the challenge we face, just like I am every October when we turn the page and start approaching the next season. But for now, it’s filled with a lot of sadness, a lot of reflection as well as really good wishes for Andrew."

In concert with Friedman’s hire, the Dodgers announced that Ned Colletti, who served as Los Angeles’ general manager since November 2005, will be retained as a senior adviser to Stan Kasten, the organization’s president and CEO. Maddon, whose contract with the Rays extends through next season, has said he enjoys Tampa Bay and would prefer to remain with the Rays for many more years. Some speculation has suggested he could be targeted to join Friedman on the West Coast, possibly arriving via a trade, but manager Don Mattingly is expected to remain with the Dodgers.

Colletti’s future, meanwhile, had been a question in recent days after the St. Louis Cardinals eliminated the Dodgers in a National League Division Series this month. Despite the highest payroll in baseball, Los Angeles failed to reach a second consecutive NL Championship Series. The Dodgers last appeared in the World Series in 1988.

Despite rumored interest by Los Angeles, Friedman had gained comfort with Tampa Bay. At 77-85, the Rays were coming off their worst season since claiming at least 84 victories each year since 2008. After the most recent campaign, he spoke about embracing the challenge to make Tampa Bay a playoff contender again.

But Friedman decided the time was right to move on. Now, Tampa Bay will attempt to regroup next spring without him.

"One of the things I admire most about him is his boldness and his courage," Silverman said. "He doesn’t shy away from difficult decisions. He’s willing to stick his neck out on things that he thinks are important. Many of those things were informed by people in his department and bubbled up to Andrew’s level. But he wasn’t afraid of that big move, and I want to make sure that our department is not afraid to take those bold moves going forward."

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.