Friday, September 19, 2008

The Other Jew in the AL East

Andrew Friedman was hired to be the Tampa Bay Rays GM, the offseason before the 2006 season. This means that this season is his third. He has managed to not only get the team over .500 after never accomplishing that feat in the Rays brief history, but has also made them into a playoff team and maybe even the best team in the AL. The Rays are also one of the youngest teams in the MLB, thus their core has many more years to play together. How has Mr. Friedman been able to turn the tables in just three years time? That's what I'm going to try to answer for you.

Everyone thinks that the Rays success has come solely from attaining many high draft picks in recent drafts because they've been so bad. But if you look closely and analyze their team you'll see that very few have been drafted early by the Rays. There's Carl Crawford(2nd Round 1998) who's been injured for a while, Rocco Baldelli(1st Round 2000) who before August hadn't played since obtaining some kind of cell disease, BJ Upton(1st Round 2002) a young star, Jeff Neimann(1st Round 2005) who hasn't played because the Rays have a surplus of pitchers, Evan Longoria(1st Round 2006) and David Price(1st overall 2007). That is quite a few players not to mention top prospects Ried Brignac and Wade Davis who were both drafted in the 2nd Round and Delmon Young a 2004 1st Round Pick who was traded to the Twins for Matt Garza, a key component to the Rays success. This list has three superstars and three up and coming, future stars. That still leaves six more hitters and four more starters along with some key bullpen roles that aren't taken by former 1st or 2nd round draft picks.

This is where Friedman has excelled as a GM. He loves picking up former highly touted prospects, that were supposed to excel at the Major League level but never panned out. He has picked these guys up cheaply and some of them have made big impacts for the Rays. He's also found some very nice prospects in the later rounds of the draft like Jeremy Hellickson in the 4th Round and Desmond Jennings in the 10th Round two of many players who have helped transform the Rays Minor League System into one of the better ones in the majors. When Friedman became the GM after the 2005 season the Rays had one of the worst Farm Systems in baseball, after the 2006 season they were ranked 1st. He has stockpiled many exciting young players like Jennings and Hellickson along with Wade Davis, Jake McGee(before Friedman's time), David Price, Ried Brignac and others. He's realized that building through the minor leagues is the right way to go, and since he came into a no pressure situation he was able to do exactly what he wanted. While his young star players were developing Andrew Friedman snagged some nice, cheap free agents that have contributed a lot to this year's success like Carlos Pena(leads team in HR's), Eric Hinske(a key component on offense), Cliff Floyd, Gabe Gross(both solid contributors) and Dan Johnson on offense. Troy Percival, JP Howell, Grant Balfour and Chad Bradford are all essential parts of their top bullpen this year.

The rest of the players are either pre-Andrew Friedman or were acquired via trade. Dioner Navarro and Edwin Jackson were acquired from the LA Dodgers for Julio Lugo and Danys Baez, at the time a huge rip off for the Rays who were getting...two highly touted prospects that never panned out. JP Howell was acquired from the Royals for Joey Gathright, and Willy Aybar came in the trade that had the Rays sending Jeff Ridgeway to the Braves.  They also received Dan Wheeler in a deal that sent Ty Wigginton to the Astros at last year's trade deadline. Aki Iwamura was acquired through the posting method and has also been a solid contributor to this team. Kazmir, Shields, Sonnanstine, Crawford, Baldelli, Upton, Jason Hammel and Jeff Neimann are all from the pre-Friedman Rays who were not badly constructed at all by Chuck LaMar but LaMar just never had enough pitching.

Now that the Rays have tons of top prospects and a fully stocked major league team, they are ready to compete this year and in the future. The Rays are now 11 deep in the rotation and have three SS along with 6 OFers and have plenty more depth. Depth is a huge factor in winning championships and the Rays have lots of it. The Rays have had their fare share of injuries this year with Kazmir, Longoria and Crawford and none of them have had a crippling effect on the Rays because of their great depth. I believe the Rays will win at least one World Series in the next five years and maybe even more. This team is just so deep and talented they have the ability to be the next great dynasty in baseball, all thanks to Andrew Friedman.  The Jew.