SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, BASEBALL OPERATIONS & GENERAL MANAGER
Erik Neander (nee-ANN-der) enters his fourth season as senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager, and his third season as the club’s top-ranking baseball official. He was named to his current post on Nov 4, 2016, and one year later Matt Silverman shifted to team president after a three-year stretch as president of baseball operations.
As the leader of the baseball operations department, Erik directly oversees all of its functions, including player evaluation and procurement, player development, medical training and research and development. While facing low-revenue challenges in the powerhouse AL East, Erik and his staff have constructed teams that improved their win totals from 68 to 80 to 90 to 96 victories over the past three seasons. In 2019, the Rays made their first postseason appearance since 2013 while their win total fell one shy of the club record set in 2008.
As a result of the club’s accomplishments in 2019, Neander was selected by his peers as baseball’s top executive. He became the second recipient of Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year Award, following Oakland’s Billy Beane (2018), and earned a similar honor as Sporting News Executive of the Year. In December, the Rays were honored as Baseball America’s 2019 Organization of the Year.
“Rays execs … [know] they operate on the thinnest of margins,” wrote The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal in April 2019. “Others in the industry can’t help but notice, however. Baseball’s little engine that could is turning into a runaway train.”
Much of that optimism is rooted in the Rays player development system. The Rays enter 2020 ranked by Baseball America as the No. 1 farm system in the game—the fifth straight season they have improved their standing, after a No. 2 ranking entering 2019. Entering both 2019 and 2020, they placed more prospects than any other team in the publication’s Top 100 list—with nine in 2019, and eight in 2020. Six of those eight prospects were acquired by Erik’s staff, including international signing Wander Franco (No. 1 overall), draft picks Brendan McKay (No. 14), Shane McClanahan (No. 83) and Joe Ryan (No. 98) and trade acquisitions Shane Baz (No. 71) and Xavier Edwards (No. 85).
In just over three years as general manager, he and his staff have engineered 51 major league trades involving a total of 132 players, including a club-record 20 trades in 2018. Of the 40-man roster, 25 players have been acquired since he was appointed GM (and 22 via trade). Among these players are trade acquisitions Randy Arozarena, Nick Anderson, Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Díaz, Tyler Glasnow, Manuel Margot, José Martínez, Austin Meadows, Hunter Renfroe and Ryan Yarbrough and free agents Charlie Morton and Yoshi Tsutsugo. Their 2019 ALDS roster included 18 players acquired on Erik’s watch, 15 of them via trade.
Neander, who turns 37 in May, begins his 14th season in the Rays organization. Much of his past experience focused on player personnel, departmental administration, research and development, the amateur draft and major league operations. He joined the Rays in January 2007 as a baseball operations intern and was hired fulltime in October 2007. He was later promoted to manager, baseball research and development in 2009, director of baseball operations prior to the 2012 season and vice president of baseball operations in October 2014.
Prior to joining the Rays, Erik worked for Baseball Info Solutions. The Oneonta, N.Y. native graduated from Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s of science in food, nutrition and exercise. He and his wife, Jessica, reside in Tampa with their sons, Penn and Corbin; daughter, Eden; and their rescue animals.