Erik Neander, senior vice president and general manager, Tampa Bay Rays
It says something about the depth and talent of the Rays’ roster that they were able to win 100 games and easily clinch the AL East with basically no help from Neander.
Neander was in there trying. He made 51 personnel moves affecting the major league roster, and those 59 included eight that impacted the Rays by a minimum of one game.
The problem was that the eight big moves essentially offset one another– four positive, four negative – the net impact being a standstill. Happily for the defending American League champions, they happened to be in a very advantageous position, so the Rays were able to withstand the front office’s modestly negative overall impact.
In fairness to Neander, let’s begin with the four very good decisions. He promoted shortstop Wander Franco…possibly tardily, but he did it. Genius! Once he arrived, Franco yielded 2.5 WAA.
He landed free agent pitcher Collin McHugh, and McHugh went 6-1 with a 1.55 ERA in 37 appearances. That translated to 1.3 WAA. He let Pittsburgh claim catcher Michael Perez on waivers, freeing Tampa of what would be Perez’s .143, -1.6 WAA season.
The Willy Adames trade Is much-discussed, especially given the role Adames played in Milwaukee. Beyond opening up shortstop space for Franco, the deal actually amounted to nearly offsetting impacts. Tampa lost the 2.1 WAA Adames would bring to Milwaukee, but got 1.3 WAA in pitching help from Drew Rasmussen (+1.1) and J.P. Feyereisen (+0.2).
The signing of free agent pitcher Michael Wacha (3-5, 5.05, -1.8 WAA in 23 starts) was an unforced error. So was the decision not to pursue departing free agent Charlie Morton, who signed with Atlanta and went 14-6 in 33 starts. If Morton beats the Rays in the World Series, Neander may live to regret that oversight more than any other.