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Matt Silverman takes active approach to Rays roster

Tampa Bay Rays President Matt Silverman (in center) smiles as he talks with Claire Brantley and Tom Brantley, fans from North Tampa, while passing out programs to guests as they enter Tropicana Field. Since taking over the baseball operation, Silverman has been active in reworking the roster. (DIRK SHADD | Times).
Published Nov. 30, 2014

If the past month is an example of new baseball ops president Matt Silverman's planned "tweaking" of the Rays roster, just imagine what it'll be like when he wants to do an overhaul.

Even while steering the process of hiring a manager toward conclusion this week, Silverman and staff have traded three pitchers who have played key roles — Jeremy Hellickson, Joel Peralta and Cesar Ramos — and dumped six others off the 40-man roster, including veterans C Jose Molina and INF/OF Sean Rodriguez.

Clearly, there was some cost savings, but not a lot. The Rays trimmed about $10 million in committed/projected payroll in Hellickson ($4M), Peralta ($2.5M), Rodriguez ($2M) and Ramos ($1.3M), but filling those four spots will cost a minimum of $2.3 million. And ditching Molina meant eating his $2.75 million salary, plus paying his replacement in excess of the $500,000 minimum. So the net savings wasn't significant, around $4 million.

There was some dealing from depth (Hellickson, for prospects), reducing duplicity on the roster (Rodriguez), altering clubhouse chemistry (Molina).

But, per Silverman, the prime driving force was creating flexibility on the roster to add a half-dozen younger players the Rays didn't want to risk losing.

"Our desire to protect a large group of younger prospects required us to make some difficult decisions with our roster and helped accelerate the pace of transactions," he said.

And those were likely just the prelims, with bigger deal(s) to come as they seek to boost their offense. As has been the case since the end of the season, they are expected to trade either OF Matt Joyce or OF David DeJesus, two lefty swingers both making around $5 million. And they will at least chat about just about everybody else, whether it's SS Yunel Escobar or OF Desmond Jennings or 1B James Loney.

"We listen on everyone," Silverman said, "but in many cases it's for the comedic value more than anything else."

The next roster deadline is Tuesday, by which time they have to either trade or release Rodriguez and will tender contracts to their six remaining arbitration eligibles: Ps Alex Cobb, Jake McGee, Drew Smyly; INF Logan Forsythe; and Jennings (whose season-ending sore knee is said to be better) and Joyce.

STAFF STUFF: With the decision among managerial candidates Kevin Cash, Raul Ibanez and Don Wakamatsu coming, the Rays will wait to replace departed bench coach Dave Martinez. That makes sense since the job description is different based on who is hired, as Cash and Ibanez, in theory, would require a more experienced assistant (i.e., someone who has actually managed a game). … Also, the Rays could allow the new manager to bring in his own guy, shuffle existing staff (say, Tom Foley as bench coach?) or, like the Pirates, go without a traditional bench coach. … They also need to replace Triple-A pitching coach Neil Allen, who got his first well-deserved big-league job with the Twins. Internal candidates could include coordinator Kyle Snyder and Double-A coach R.C. Lichtenstein.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Word is the Cubs have already asked for and received permission to talk with Martinez, with no compensation expected. … One byproduct of Rodriguez's departure is likely to be a first baseman's mitt in Forsythe's spring locker. Another is increased opportunity for Tim Beckham. … RHP Ernesto Frieri, signed to replace Peralta, is also a fly ball pitcher and similarly had issues in 2014 with too many going for home runs, which the Rays feel is correctable. … The Rays are waiting to hear if RHP Michael Kohn, who was designated for assignment last week, accepts an outright assignment to Durham. … The Rays have been among many teams tracking Cuban INF Yoan Moncada, considered to be the next great thing. … The annual Ted Williams Museum dinner is Jan. 31.

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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