ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays expect to keep rolling without Andrew Friedman.
One of baseball's top young executives left Tuesday to become president of baseball operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg never had any doubts about who's the best person to replace Friedman and keep the organization running smoothly.
Sternberg brought Friedman and Matt Silverman to Florida from Wall Street a decade ago, so Silverman was the logical choice to take over baseball operations after serving as team president for the past nine years. Senior vice president of baseball operations Brian Auld moved into Silverman's old job.
"This isn't something that showed up in the last day or two. We've been working at this for a period of time now, and we've been coordinating with Andrew as well," Sternberg said during a conference call. "It was clear to me that Matt was going to be the right person to step in."
Friedman had been approached in the past by other teams, including the Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros. Each time, he chose to remain with the small-market Rays.
Sternberg said he never considered conducting a search for a possible successor, convinced even before now that Silverman was the best guy to "pick up the baton and take this thing forward" if Friedman ever left.
The owner said he'd also like to keep manager Joe Maddon, whose contract expires after next season. He's been with the Rays for nine years and has a close relationship with Friedman.
"It always takes two people," Sternberg began, when asked if he was concerned that Friedman might be interested in luring Maddon to California, where he was a long-time coach with the Angels before moving to Tampa Bay.
"I did speak with Joe today, obviously before the announcement, and he loves it here," the owner said. "He loves being here. But as with any of the extensions we've signed Joe to, the ball will be in his court, as well as our court."
Silverman called Tuesday a tough day personally. He was sad one of his best friends was leaving, but excited to have the opportunity to continue what he, Friedman and Sternberg began with no prior experience in baseball.
"I'm stepping into a baseball organization that is filled with talented and dedicated people. My job and my priority is to continue the great work that we've done and continue with the challenge we face every year of defying the odds," Silverman said, adding he learned a lot observing and working with Friedman.
"Our guys, they thrive on that challenge," the new president of baseball operations added. "It drives us, it drives Joe Maddon, it drives the players in the clubhouse."
Friedman joined the Rays in 2004 and was promoted to executive vice president at age 28 in October 2005, when Sternberg took control of the team.
Despite operating with one of the lower payrolls in the major leagues, Friedman and Maddon helped transform the Rays from perennial losers into a team that made the playoffs four of the past seven seasons. Tampa Bay won two AL East championships during Friedman's tenure and appeared in the 2008 World Series, losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in five games.
Sternberg thanked Friedman for his contributions and wished him well with the Dodgers, who had the highest payroll in baseball this year.
"We have enjoyed great success together, and that's largely due to the deep and talented organization that Andrew has helped to assemble both on and off the field," Sternberg said.
Silverman joined the Rays at the same time as Friedman, serving as director of strategic planning until taking over as team president when Sternberg became principal owner.
"Andrew, Stu and I first started talking about working together back in 2003. I could not have imagined then what we've experienced since," Silverman said, adding he's taking over a "well-oiled" organization that he expects to revert to winning ways after going 77-85 this year for its first losing mark since 2007.
"We had six winning seasons before this one," Silverman added. "We all suffered through it. It was painful. We don't want to go through it again."
The Rays spent generously by their standards in 2014 with a $77 million payroll. They had expectations of challenging for a postseason berth before a stretch in which they lost 14 of 15 games saddled them with the worst record in the major leagues on June 10. The team never fully recovered, finishing fourth in the AL East, 19 games behind Baltimore.
"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. 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," Friedman said.
"The Rays organization is loaded with talent from ownership to players and everyone between," he added. "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."