Tampa Bay Rays senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager Erik Neander, whose team reached the playoffs despite having the lowest payroll in baseball, was named as Major League Baseball Executive of the Year on Monday.
The award capped a bountiful year for Neander and the Rays. Tampa Bay finished the regular season 96-66 for the seventh-best record in the majors, captured an AL wild-card berth, then knocked out the Oakland Athletics in the wild-card game. The Rays took the Houston Astros to a decisive Game 5 before losing in the American League Division Series.
Neander shaped the playoff contender with a bevy of signings and trades over the past couple seasons. He brought in right-hander Charlie Morton and outfielder Avisail Garcia via free agency, and he turned to the trade market to grab infielder Yandy Diaz and relief pitcher Emilio Pagan.
The Rays improved during the season by acquiring catcher Travis d'Arnaud, who hit 16 homers in 92 games for Tampa Bay, and right-hander Nick Anderson, who struck out 41 batters in 21 1/3 innings for his new team. The Rays also acquired first baseman Jesus Aguilar and infielder Eric Sogard to position themselves for a postseason run.
The 36-year-old Neander also made an impact over the previous couple seasons. He pulled off a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2018 that brought in right-hander Tyler Glasnow and outfielder Austin Meadows, and he seized a chance to acquire Tommy Pham from the St. Louis Cardinals' crowded outfield.
Neander, a Virginia Tech graduate, has worked in the Rays' organization for the past 13 seasons.
"I am both humbled and honored to be recognized by Major League Baseball and the executives who voted on the award," Neander said in a statement released by the team. "This recognition deserves to be shared across our entire staff, as well as the players who left it all on the field. It's our collective commitment that allows something like this to be possible. While we fell short of our ultimate on-field goal in 2019, I am proud of our progress and we'll do all we can to build upon that in the coming years."
The New York Yankees' Brian Cashman finished second to Neander in the Executive of the Year voting while 2018 winner Billy Beane of the A's and Derek Falvey of the Minnesota Twins tied for third.
--Field Level Media