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Topkin: Rays GM Erik Neander takes on bigger responsibilities with less of a safety net

GM Erik Neander says little will be “drastically different” now that he is top man in the baseball operations department.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

GM Erik Neander says little will be “drastically different” now that he is top man in the baseball operations department.

Rays GM Erik Neander said that, with Matt Silverman officially moving back to a team president role, nothing really will be different now that he is the top man in baseball operations.

Except for everything that is.

"I don't think my world and the leader­ship team's world flipped upside down,'' Neander said. "I think it's something that's been gradual enough that it's not something that's going to be drastically different from a month ago, six months ago or a year ago.

"But with it comes a little more autonomy and a little less of a day-to-day safety net.''

Also, more visibility and accountability in everything from maintaining organizational culture to directing philosophy and channeling communication.

But none of this is new to Neander, 34.

He has been with the Rays since starting as an intern in 2007 and has taken on a gradually expanding role, along with that of Chaim Bloom, especially since October 2014, when then-baseball operations chief Andrew Friedman left and Silverman stepped in for what turned out to be a three-year stint.

"Our personalities are different, but in terms of our values and the things that are most important to us, largely we're aligned with that,'' Neander said.

As Neander heads to this week's GM meetings in Orlando, he said there are no plans for major changes in direction or team-building, that "things that could operate differently or we could see differently" would be more a matter of learning from their past than altering philosophy.

"The realities that we are a small-market team, our perception of that is similar. That's something that's recognized, '' Neander said. "That being said, it's something that we embrace. Our goal is to win. We believe that we have the ability to do that, and are committed to doing that.''

Curt goodbye

C Curt Casali wasn't surprised to be dropped off the roster and made a free agent, given he would be out of options in 2018 and the Rays have Wilson Ramos and Jesus Sucre, but it's still a tough goodbye after five years. "Obviously I'm disappointed that the Rays have made the decision to move on,'' he said. "In reality though, I understand the move. They have two outstanding catchers on their team, and I wish them the best of luck. I'll always be grateful for the opportunity they gave me to break into the big leagues. And I'll also be even more grateful for the friends I've made there.''

Rays rumblings

The Rays are obviously comfortable that Brian Auld and Silverman will be dual team presidents and not dueling, but it still seems an odd structure to have no one person in charge. On the plus side, how about some between-innings entertainment with a real live presidents race? … CF Kevin Kiermaier got married Friday in St. Petersburg. … Gold Glove-winning 3B Evan Longoria again gave credit to now-reassigned longtime coach Tom Foley and said he was "looking forward" to working with the new-look staff, attributing the changes to manager Kevin Cash "getting his guys in place." … As terrible as that 2011 draft looks, to come out of it with two starting pitchers (LH Blake Snell, RH Jake Faria) and trade returns for OF Mikie Mahtook (turned into Lucas Duda rental) and INF/OF Taylor Motter isn't that bad. … RHP Alex Cobb has to let the Rays know by Thursday if he will take their one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer or, as they hope, decline so they get a compensatory draft pick when he signs elsewhere. … Free agent 1B Logan Morrison looks to be a good fit in his native Kansas City to replace Eric Hosmer and told MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM that doing so "would be a dream come true." Also, he wasn't surprised the Rays didn't give him a qualifying offer: "The Rays struggle with a $38 million payroll, so I think allocating $17 (million) to one player is tough.'' … Though seriously interested in Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani, the Rays can offer only $440,500 based on available international funds, per the Associated Press. The Rangers can offer $3,535,000, Yankees $3,250,000, Twins $3,245,000. … Thumbs-up to the Rays for teaming with KaBOOM! and building a playground in Tampa, their seventh. … Original Devil Rays C John Flaherty, now a Yankees TV broadcaster, threw his "hat in the ring" for the open manager's job in New York. … Interesting note on the late Roy Halladay: He made his major-league debut at the Trop on Sept. 20, 1998, in a 7-5 Toronto win over the Devil Rays. … With Joe Benge taking over as head athletic trainer, the Rays still have to hire a second assistant and also some new Triple-A coaches.

Marc Topkin can be reached at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

Topkin: Rays GM Erik Neander takes on bigger responsibilities with less of a safety net 11/11/17 [Last modified: Saturday, November 11, 2017 6:47pm]
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