Jim Bowden On the Rays Managerial Search, Etc

Jim Bowden (Photo courtesy of AP Photo)

Jim Bowden (Photo courtesy of AP Photo)

On the heels of the announcement of the final three managerial candidates Friday, ESPN’s Jim Bowden had some pretty strong words on the Rays search to fill the gap left in Joe Maddon’s wake. Sadly, unless you have an ESPN Insider account, you probably couldn’t read what Bowden had to say. While I’m one of the many who doesn’t have an account with ESPN (Do I REALLY want to put more money in Kruk’s pocket?), a kind follower of the X-Rays Spex Facebook page reprinted his comments in their entirety.

Without further adieu,

The Rays’ managerial search took another bizarre twist Friday when it was announced that their three finalists were Don Wakamatsu, Raul Ibanez and Kevin Cash. Their initial list of eight individuals to interview was puzzling to begin with, considering just two of those candidates were former big league managers: Wakamatsu and Manny Acta.

Wakamatsu’s first managerial stint lasted only 274 games with the Seattle Mariners, and he was 28 games under .500 when he was fired in 2010. Acta has six years of MLB managerial experience, but his career win percentage is just .418, and he hasn’t had a winning season.

But the surprising part wasn’t that those two got interviews; they’re both solid baseball men and deserve another chance. Instead, it was more about which experienced managers did not get an interview. That list that includes Ron Washington, Kirk Gibson, Dusty Baker and Ron Gardenhire. All four of them have led a team to the postseason since 2010. Washington has two AL pennants and four 90-win seasons under his belt; Gibson was the NL Manager of the Year just three seasons ago; Baker has eight 90-win seasons, three NL Manager of the Year awards (and three second-place finishes); and Gardenhire, known for having teams with good fundamentals, has five 90-win seasons and has finished in the top three in Manager of the Year voting seven times (one win). Not even good enough for an interview?

Another surprising aspect about their candidates list was that several of the industry’s up-and-coming possibilities were not included, such as Tim Bogar, Torey Lovullo and Doug Mientkiewicz. Barry Larkin and Doug Glanville did receive last-minute interviews — not sure why they weren’t on the original list — but neither seemed to get fair consideration. In particular, Larkin would have been a perfect fit for the Rays given his leadership qualities, number of years in the game and his impressive managing work in the World Baseball Classic with the Brazilian national team. But apparently, he was out-interviewed by the above finalists.

It’s also a little strange to see Ibanez (who still hasn’t officially retired yet), but no interview for Paul Konerko.

To top it all off was the disrespect toward long-time Rays bench coach Dave Martinez. Several Rays players, including Evan Longoria and Alex Cobb, publicly and privately urged new Rays GM Matt Silverman to hire Martinez, citing that continuity would help them through the losses of manager Joe Maddon and GM Andrew Friedman going forward.

Silverman was smart to ask some of his star players for their input, but didn’t seem to pay much attention to it. The Rays decided to include Martinez in the managerial hiring process, but didn’t even name him a finalist. Silverman wouldn’t have had all those candidates if he thought Martinez would be the next manager, so why make him go through a process you knew he wouldn’t survive and then embarrass him more by not even making him a finalist?

According to some, the interview process itself was much more corporate-slanted than baseball philosophy oriented, and the candidate list seems to have no theme or consistency to it. There’s no clear direction of what they’re looking for in a manager, as Wakamatsu, Ibanez and Cash are as different from a personality perspective as they are from a baseball philosophy perspective. The final list is about as eclectic as it gets.

In an attempt to put a positive spin on this, I’ll note that a poor process doesn’t always mean the wrong guy for the job. For Silverman’s sake, he better hope he hires the right guy, because this will be the most important decision he will make in his rookie year as a GM.

Noteworthiness

After a busy week of wheeling and dealing, here is how the Rays 40-man roster looks now:

Pitchers (20)
Matt Andriese
Chris Archer
Grant Balfour
Jeff Beliveau
Brad Boxberger
Alex Cobb
Alex Colome
Jose Dominguez
Grayson Garvin
Steve Geltz
Brandon Gomes
Nathan Karns
Jake McGee
Mike Montgomery
Matt Moore
Jake Odorizzi
C.J. Riefenhauser
Enny Romero
Drew Smyly
Kirby Yates

Catchers (3)
Curt Casali
Ryan Hanigan
Justin O’Conner

Infielders (10)
Tim Beckham
Ryan Brett
Yunel Escobar
Logan Forsythe
Nick Franklin
Hak-Ju Lee
James Loney
Evan Longoria
Sean Rodriguez
Ben Zobrist

Outfielders (7)
David DeJesus
Brandon Guyer
Desmond Jennings
Matt Joyce
Kevin Kiermaier
Mikie Mahtook
Wil Myers

In a recent piece for the Tampa Bay Times, Marc Topkin noted,

With Jose Molina gone, the Rays are working to add a backup to Ryan Hanigan — either via trade or signing — who has more experience than Curt Casali and, preferably, options so they can compete. … In addition to the expected trade of Matt Joyce and/or David DeJesus, the Rays may be looking to deal from depth in reserve infielders (Logan Forsythe or Sean Rodriguez) and bullpen (Brandon Gomes, et al).

Matt Joyce’s availability with an asterisk, of course.

The Rays will have to seek out a team who is looking for a left handed power(isn) hitter. Joyce is coming off a .254 BA/.349 OBP/.383 SLG season, and while his BA was above his career norm for a good part of the season, his power numbers and slash line wRISP were down. Then there’s the whole “Joyce isn’t good against LHP” scenario – Tampa Bay has hidden Joyce from lefties with just 35 of his 493 plate appearances coming against fellow southpaws. FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron has noted that clubs are showing a preference for right-handed power hitters, potentially decreasing any interest in Joyce, who is projected to earn $4.9MM in his final spin through arbitration.

Quell those fears, my friends. In a response to a question about the future of Jim Hickey on Twitter, Marc Topkin was fairly reassuring, going as far as to note that Hickey is signed for 2015, and the Rays value his work.

In an ideal world, Tampa Bay will offer a contract extension to Hickey at some point during this off-season, if not next.

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Hot-Stove: Rays Announce Managerial Finalists

Kevin Cash (right) is one of the Rays three managerial finalists.

Kevin Cash (right) is one of the Rays three managerial finalists.

Earlier today, we noted that the Rays would narrow the field to three candidates. The Rays did just that, whittling their list of managerial candidates down from ten to three this afternoon, settling on Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu, Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash and Raul Ibanez to serve as their next skipper.

To better know Don Wakamatsu. (Courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays)

To better know Don Wakamatsu. (Courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays)

Wakamatsu managed the Mariners from 2009-10, prior to holding down the bench coach position with the Kansas City Royals. “He’s oft-cited as a candidate to receive another crack at managing a team and has drawn interest from multiple clubs in managerial searches since his dismissal from Seattle,” writes Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors.

To better know Kevin Cash. (Courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays)

To better know Kevin Cash. (Courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays)

Former catcher for the Rays, Cash also spent time with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, Astros in his eight-year career as a catcher. He was considered to be a strong candidate in the recent managerial searches for the Rangers and Astros.

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To better know Raul Ibanez. (Courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays)

Ibanez was a surprise entrant on the Rays’ initial list of 10, considering the fact that he was active on the Royals roster through season’s end. The 19-year veteran is a career .272 BA/.335 OBP/.465 SLG hitter with 305 homers and is known for his positive influence in the clubhouse.

Shockingly absent from the list of finalists is bench coach Dave Martinez, the Rays top internal candidate. In a press release confirming the finalists, President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman made the following statement:

The decision on Dave Martinez was especially difficult. He’s played a key role in our organization’s evolution, and he’s done all he can to put himself in position to be a manager. In the end, we determined that our clubhouse would best benefit from a new voice that will add to our already strong and cohesive culture.

The in person interviews are set to take place the week of December 1, and because of it there will be no manager in place by Thanksgiving. However, the organization will have time to make a decision prior to the Winter Meetings, which run from December 7-11 in San Diego.

Among the 10 initial candidates, Craig Counsel was the only member to withdraw his name from consideration choosing instead to stick with his current team, the Milwaukee Brewers.

The speculation can now begin on who might be the best fit for the future of the organization, however, suffice it to say, the insight into the qualifications of each candidate is minimal at best.

Noteworthiness:

  • Quote of the day, courtesy of Marc Topkin: “Martinez, 50, had the support of several key Rays players, who cited the benefit of continuity. He is signed for the 2015 season, but it would be hard to imagine him returning; more likely the Rays would offer him another position in the organization and/or allow him to take a job elsewhere, perhaps joining Maddon with the Cubs. Martinez, who was described by a friend as “very, very disappointed,” did not return messages Friday night.”
  • The Rays have signed 1B Allan Dykstra and RHP Bryce Stowell to minor-league contracts, per MLB.com transactions. Dykstra most recently played for the Navegantes Del Magallanes in Venezuela last year, and is said to be very impressive, boasting solid defense.
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    Hot-Stove: More On the Rays Roster Deadline Moves

    One of the Rays newest acquisitions; RHP Jose Dominguez.

    One of the Rays newest acquisitions, RHP Jose Dominguez.

    The standing question after Andrew Friedman left for the supposed greener pastures of Los Angeles, how effective would Matt Silverman be in the vacated position? If his recent off-season moves — last night’s roster deadline included — speak to anything, I’d say he’s going to be pretty damn effective.

    First, he executed a deal to the Los Angeles Angels of the Rays former long reliever, LHP Cesar Ramos. Then, he dealt Jeremy Hellickson to Arizona for a pair of up and coming prospects. Finally, when faced with opening six roster spots ahead of the 40-man roster deadline last night, Silverman executed a trade of Joel Peralta and Adam Liberatore — paired with a few other moves — to protect six players who were at risk of being picked up in December’s Rule-5 Draft. Well done Mr. Silverman, well done.

    In short, Silverman opened up two slots by sending two relievers — Peralta and Triple-A prospect Liberatore — to the Los Angeles Dodgers for the blazing fastball hurler Jose Dominguez, and starter from Class-A named Greg Harris. The Rays also literally thinned out the roster by designating the swarthy Jose Molina, recently signed reliever Michael Kohn, and infielder Cole Figueroa for assignment. Both Molina and Kohn are under contract and have ten days to be traded or the Rays will have to eat their salary.

    These moves gave the Rays six open roster slots and removed Liberatore from the depth chart — allowing Tampa Bay the opportunity to add Dominguez, RHP Matt Andriese, INF Ryan Brett, LHP Grayson Garvin, OF Mikie Mahtook, and C Justin O’Conner to the 40-man roster. Among the names under consideration for the Rays (but not protected from the Rule-5 Draft) are High-A starter Jeff Ames, Double-A corner outfielder Taylor Motter, longtime Triple-A starter Merrill Kelly, and Double-A center fielder Kes Carter.

    Danny Russell of DRaysBay was quick to offer his thoughts on last night’s roster action,

    The Rays can’t protect everyone on their list, and if Liberatore was to be exposed, the thought process would be to get something else in return. Still, the lefty Liberatore had some shiny stats last year at Triple-A, including a 1.66 ERA and 1.65 FIP while striking out nearly 12/9. He takes the place of top-ten prospect Onelki Garcia, a southpaw reliever the Dodgers lost earlier today to the White Sox after designating from the 40-man. Dodgers fans are excited to have the Durham southpaw, and rightfully so.

    Paired with Joel Peralta going out the door, and bringing back only one pitcher who needed protecting on the roster, will prove to either be fateful or shrewd, depending on who is more successful: strike-em-out southpaw Liberatore, or light-em-up righty Jose Dominguez.

    When all is said and done, even though the roster moves were slow in coming, Silverman passed the initial seeing eye test.

    Noteworthiness

    • The Rays are expected to trim the eight-man managerial field this afternoon, with the intent to bring in three candidates for in-depth, in-person interviews. The narrowed field would expedite the interview and hiring process, though the conclusion of the process is unknown. Marc Topkin tweeted (seen below) that both Manny Acts and Brewers special assistant Craig Counsel are no longer in consideration for the position. Counsell told MLB.com that he withdrew himself from consideration for the Rays job because he likes his current gig with the Brewers.

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    Hot-Stove: Rays 40-Man Roster Moves Thread (Updated)

    (Photo courtesy of Tyler Kepner)

    (Photo courtesy of Tyler Kepner)

    Update: I’m still trying to process all of the moves made by the Rays at the 40-man roster deadline. I’ll continue to update this thread, as well as put together a piece on the Rays 40-man roster additions.

    I wrote Wednesday night that the deadline to add players to the 40-man roster, in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft in December, is midnight tonight, November 20th. Six players were identified as possibilities to be cut loose in order to make room for prospects, among the 38 currently on the 40-man roster. I’ll be updating this as the roster moves are announced, keep checking back.

    Friday, November 21 update (7:19):

    New RHP Jose Dominguez was the Dodgers number 11 prospect going into 2014 per Baseball America, citing his 100-plus mph fastball. In an article on the 40-man roster deadline, Marc Topkin wrote, “Dominguez, 24, made the Dodgers’ opening day roster but spent much of the season at Triple-A Albuquerque, going 1-2 with 10 saves and a 3.24 ERA (33⅓ IP, 12 ER) while missing time with an injured shoulder, though he returned to pitch in the minor-league playoffs. He will compete for a spot in the Rays bullpen but has options and could open at Triple-A Durham. Rays vice president Chaim Bloom cited his “electric stuff.”’

    12:37 update:

    (Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays)

    (Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays)

    12:32 update: 

    The Rays have traded RHP Joel Peralta and LHP Adam Liberatore to the Los Angeles Dodgers for RHP Jose Dominguez and Class-A RHP Greg Harris. Tampa Bay will add Dominguez, RHP Matt Andriese, INF Ryan Brett, LHP Grayson Garvin, OF Mikie Mahtook, and C Justin O’Conner to the 40-man roster. Jose Molina, Cole Figueroa and recent acquisition RHP Michael Kohn have been designated for assignment. By the end of the night, Tampa Bay knocked $2.5M off the payroll by trading Peralta, though they are on hook for $2.75M with Molina unless they can trade him by Monday, December 1.

    12:10 update:

    INF Ryan Brett is one of the Rays roster additions, per JJ Cooper of Baseball America. Brett played 107 games at AA Montgomery in 2014, and slashed .303 BA/.346 OBP/.448 SLG with 8 HR, 38 RBI and 27 stolen bases.

    11:30 update:

    Unconfirmed, the Rays have traded Adam Liberatore to the Dodgers

    11:26 update:

    11:08 update:

    7:30 update:

    The first casualty of the 2014 roster-jam: Jose Molina. The Rays will DFA C Jose Molina tonight as they clear roster space. He is signed for next season at a salary of $2.75-million, the back end of a two-year, $4.5-million deal. Molina started 70 games this season (playing in 80 total) for Tampa Bay, throwing out only 12-of-50 attempted base-stealers, batting a paltry .178 with two extra base hits. His .187 slugging percentage was the lowest for any player with at least 200 plate appearances since 1968, when Ray Oyler posted a .186 for Detroit. The Rays won’t have to eat Molina’s salary if they can work out a trade within the next 10 days.

    4:30 update:

    Pictured below is a series of tweets from Chris Cotillo (of MLB Daily Dish). It’s speculation, but he may be referencing a deal for Matt Joyce with the Texas Rangers:

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    Hot-Stove: Tampa Bay Rays at the 40-Man Roster Deadline

    Ben Zobrist collected his 1,000th hit on September 10, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

    Ben Zobrist collected his 1,000th hit on September 10, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

    The deadline to add players to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft in December is November 20. In short, the purpose of the Rule 5 draft is to provide a path to the majors for players who are skilled enough to play, but are blocked by too many good players in front of them.

    In other words, as DRaysBay’s Ian Malinowski put it:

    …Any players who were 18 or younger on the June 5 before they signed and have been in the system for five years, or who were 19 or older on the June 5 before they signed and have been in the system for four years, and who are not placed on their team’s 40-man roster, are eligible to be chosen by another team.

    If the player is chosen in December’s draft, they must be placed on the active 25-man roster of their acquiring team, and then must remain on the active roster for an entire season (otherwise, they are returned to their original team).

    The Rays roster currently sits at 38, meaning before tomorrow night’s midnight deadline, Matt Silverman and company need to figure out a way to add five-to-six prospects they’re protecting from the Rule 5 draft. C Justin O’Conner, OF Mikie Mahtook, INF Ryan Brett and pitchers Matt Andriese and Adam Liberatore are the most promising.

    Let’s take a look at the potential moves that could take place before the midnight deadline.

    Pitching

    Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 9.00.20 PM

    The Rays have 19 pitchers (nine starters and ten relievers) on the roster.

    First off, it’s safe to assume that the nine starters aren’t going anywhere, and because of it we’re left to speculate on the ten relievers.

    While Grant Balfour’s disappointing season left many calling for his head, odds are good he’ll be in camp come February — after all, the Rays can’t afford to eat the remainder of his sizable contract, and his overall lackluster performance left him with little to no trade value. The question then, who might be at risk of being moved? I have to agree with Malinowski on this one, Steve Geltz and CJ Riefenhauser (and even Brandon Gomes, who is out of options) may have enough value to pitch in the big leagues, and all three could be candidates to be moved by Thursday.

    Catchers

    Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 9.00.51 PM

    The Rays have three catchers on the roster.

    The big question, can the Rays find a team with whom to trade Jose Molina? If not, swallowing the $2.75 million he’s owed seems like a reasonable alternative.

    Outfielders

    The Rays have six outfielders on the roster.

    The Rays have six outfielders on the roster.

    One of the lingering questions going into the offseason, which outfielder(s) will get traded; Matt Joyce, David DeJesus, or Desmond Jennings? The running assumption was Matt Joyce, after all he is entering his last year of team control and is projected to make $4.9 million in arbitration. And though Joyce and DeJesus have similar peripherals, DeJesus features something that Joyce does not: speed.

    The 2014 Kansas City Royals reminded us that speed is a favorable attribute. With the exception of Joyce, the remaining five outfielders have speed, defensive chops, and favorable contracts — save for DeJesus on the contract front.

    There is a caveat when speaking of Joyce. If the Rays receive lowball offers, there is the potential for Silverman to hold him until the Rays are offered something real.

    Infielders

    Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 9.01.22 PM

    The Rays have ten infielders on the roster.

    Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez are in a similar situation to Joyce. They’re entering their last year of team control, and are therefore trade candidates. However, beyond the fact that Zobrist is a more valuable — and dynamic — player to the Rays, Rodriguez is projected to make $2 million in arbitration.

    Logan Forsythe, Cole Figueroa, and Nick Franklin promise similar capabilities defensively, so Rodriguez is replaceable on that end. If Silverman thinks they can match his offensive output, the willingness to trade him cheaply increases.

    A cautionary tale of sorts, with Cole Figueroa sitting at the bottom of the depth chart, he is the most likely of the ten infielders to find his name on the waiver wire.

    What moves would you like to see made? Who would you like to see protected? Whatever the case, we could see some of the proverbial detritus trimmed from the roster 24 hours from now.

    Noteworthiness

    • The Rays are expected to trim the managerial candidate field on Friday and bring in a thus-far-undisclosed number of candidates for in-depth face to face interviews. That makes it now unlikely a final decision will be made until after Thanksgiving.The initial 10 candidates to replace Joe Maddon are:Former Nationals and Indians manager Manny Acta
      Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash
      Brewers special assistant Craig Counsell
      ESPN analyst Doug Glanville
      Royals outfielder/DH Raul Ibanez
      Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin
      Rays bench coach Dave Martinez
      Triple-A Durham manager Charlie Montoyo
      Former Mariners manager/Royals coach Don Wakamatsu
      Giants bench coach Ron Wotus
    • Jason Hanselman of the Dock of the Rays blog writes, “On to the Rays hook. Tampa Bay has a veritable wealth of good, but not great outfielders. Once you resign yourself to the fact that the potential return for Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist necessitates them being traded you realize that there are still a ton of moving parts,” in his excellent piece on the Rays outfield in 2015. Check it out here.
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