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How the Rays will replace Astros-bound James Click

Current staffers are being promoted, with general manager Erik Neander saying after the latest departure, “We have a lot of really good people here.”
Rays general manager Erik Neander says the departure of James Click will lead to more duties or new roles for people already on staff.
Rays general manager Erik Neander says the departure of James Click will lead to more duties or new roles for people already on staff. [ DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Feb. 4, 2020|Updated Feb. 5, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG — In replacing senior vice president Chaim Bloom when he was hired away in October to run the Red Sox, the Rays stayed in-house and gave more responsibilities to other executives such as James Click.

With Click leaving Monday to take over as general manager of the Astros, the Rays will again tap into their depth.

General manager Erik Neander on Tuesday finalized the promotions of Jeremy Sowers to manager, major-league operations, and Sammi Bireley to manager, baseball administration, to handle many of the responsibilities Click had as vice president of baseball operations. Some duties were assigned to others, with vice president of development Peter Bendix now supervising the research and development department.

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Though Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said Monday night that losing Click, especially with spring training opening next week, was “difficult," Neander was focused on moving forward and confident the organization could handle it.

“First and foremost, really happy for James and his family to have the opportunity to lead a club. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with him over the last 15 years, developed a strong friendship with him and wish him nothing but the best," Neander said.

“When it comes to our organization and baseball ops specifically as we move forward, I have all the confidence in the world we have the staff in place to step up and take on greater duties and grow our organization. We have a lot of really good people here."

Plus, the Rays had previously decided, but not yet announced, to expand the duties of two other key executives. Pro scouting chief Kevin Ibach will have more input on player moves in becoming senior director of pro personnel and pro scouting, and Rob Metzler will be able to delve into other areas besides amateur scouting in being promoted to senior director.

Sternberg, in his Monday night statement, noted the need to again “regenerate” the staff as part of what he called “the Rays way:”

“The departure of another talented, senior Rays executive is difficult. That difficulty is compounded by the timing of the departure, only days from the opening of spring training. A large number of former Rays staffers now populate senior team positions across the league. Most recently, two of the past three World Series winning teams, against whom we compete directly, have reached beyond their organizations and into our ranks to fill their top baseball operations positions. We have great organizational leadership, strong faith in our ability to regenerate, and we have supreme confidence in the men and women who will be stepping up into their newfound opportunities and responsibilities. That is the Rays way. It is who we are, it is what we do.”

Related: Rays VP James Click headed to Astros

Sowers, a former big-league pitcher, worked previously at the coordinator level in operations and before that compiled advance scouting reports and handled replay reviews. Bireley had been an administration coordinator since October 2018; she started with the Rays in ticket sales in June 2013.

Click, 42, was formally introduced on Tuesday in Houston, replacing Jeff Luhnow, who was fired in the fallout from the cheating scandal. Veteran manager Dusty Baker was previously hired to replace A.J. Hinch, who was also fired after being suspended by Major League Baseball.

“Winning a championship is going to be on the front burner at all times,” Click said at Minute Maid Park. “I got an up close and personal look at the (Houston) roster during the 2019 playoffs, and it’s an impressive roster. It’s one of the things I’m most excited about in this position. We’ve all watched the Astros and the things that they’ve been able to accomplish on the major-league level and at the minor-league level, and some of the things that they’ve done to change the way we all think about the game of baseball. I’m really excited to continue that, to continue to push it forward and to win another championship.”

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Click said the opportunity was “daunting on some levels” and “tremendously exciting” on others. “If it’s possible to feel all the emotions at once, that’s what I was feeling," he said.

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays


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