ST. PETERSBURG — Colleagues, agents, friends and even wife Andrea have teased Matt Silverman that he has been talking like, acting (and especially reacting to games) like and even dressing like successful predecessor Andrew Friedman since replacing him as the Rays' chief of baseball operations.
"I didn't feel anything different," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "It's just like dealing with Andrew."
And not that there's anything wrong with that.
Heading to his second winter meetings since sliding over from his broader team president role to replace his good friend, Silverman has settled comfortably into the more hands-on and time-consuming job of keeping the revenue-limited Rays competitive with their big-market brethren.
And in those 13½ months, he has earned a reputation for a sometimes stiff business-like approach, a get-to-the-bottom-line negotiating style and a willingness to cut deals, evidenced by the 15 trades he made involving 47 players, including shipping out fan favorite Ben Zobrist and orchestrating a complicated three-team, 11-player swap that sent Wil Myers to San Diego and netted Steven Souza Jr. from Washington.
According to Ryan and other team executives who have made trades with Silverman, he and top lieutenants Chaim Bloom and Erik Neander are direct in their approach, knowledgeable about the personnel on both sides and professional in their dealings.
"Firm, that's the way I would put it," Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart said. "He has an idea what he's trying to get done, he has a very good outlook on his organization, he has an idea of where he is trying to go and he pursues that. It's pretty pleasant to deal with him, I would say."
"They interact very well," said Jerry DiPoto, who has made three deals with Silverman, two as Angels GM and one since moving on to the Mariners. "Very clearly we're almost from the first conversation generally in the same ballpark, and we're then able to bring it to a head pretty quickly."
Washington's Mike Rizzo praised Silverman and Co. for being open-minded and creative. Oakland's David Forst noted how they maintain relationships and foster a level of trust. Pittsburgh's Neal Huntington acknowledged how they are similarly realistic in evaluating players.
Silverman said that is all by design.
"There's certain teams who come in and officer audacious proposals that are more entertaining than anything else," he said. "That is not our style. We like to cut to the chase and have targeted discussions and move on quickly if there isn't a deal to be had.
"That's the approach we've taken. It's not necessarily the right approach, but it is one that we're comfortable with and has led to some strong relationships with the clubs across the league."
Also, to be fair as they need to maintain those relationships to keep making trades, an essential avenue to fill holes and reallocate talent given their absence of resources to compete for free agents, though he didn't necessarily expect to be quite so active, averaging more than one deal a month.
"I think it shows our willingness to trust our information and be decisive in our moves," Silverman said, "We aren't afraid of being wrong. And we will be wrong on a number of occasions. But if you look over the body of work, we've been able to maintain a competitive presence with an encouraging future."
Though Silverman sat in the room with Friedman during decision-making time during his nine-year tenure, he didn't fully grasp how much time, effort and cell phone minutes it took to get there in being in constant contact with teams, agents and even players.
To facilitate that, he splits up the teams and potential deals with Bloom and Neander — who have the titles of executive vice presidents — then they reconvene to make decisions, making it more of a group effort.
Still, agent Scott Boras said one of Silverman's best traits is the willingness to talk late into the night. "I'm sure he's got a pillow and a blanket in his office," Boras said. "He's been good to work with. Straightforward. Thorough."
There are times when Silverman will show a more playful side, such as pitching agent Bo McKinnis last week on why former ace David Price would enjoy playing in the National League — which just would have kept him out of the Rays' way rather than ending up in Boston as he did.
Acknowledging how much more relaxed and comfortable he and the staff are after their challenging and hectic first offseason, Silverman said that as he gets to know his colleagues better he will become more convivial and less formal. And he might even act more like himself.
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.