The Yankees' Brian Cashman and the Red Sox's Theo Epstein have built perennial World Series contenders by assembling All-Star teams while maintaining impressive farm systems. However, the standard disclaimer applies: Because of the payrolls at their disposal, it's hard to evaluate their acumen.
Andrew Friedman doesn't suffer — or benefit — from this caveat. He has led the Rays out of the basement by stocking the organization with smart draft picks and not handcuffing its future by handing out exorbitant contracts.
With fewer resources, Friedman has built a club that gives Boston and New York a run for their considerable money every season.
A GM's biggest job is accumulating talented players, and nobody in the modern game does that better than Texas' Jon Daniels.
The kid just turned 34 and already he has traded for Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, nabbed Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz from the Braves for a hard-to-sign Mark Teixeira, brought Colby Lewis back from Japan and snatched Cliff Lee out of the Yankees' hands — all while systematically building one of the deepest farm systems in the game and surviving a team bankruptcy and unstable ownership situation.
That's as good as it gets.
Phillies' Ruben Amaro
The Morning Call
The rule of thumb is it takes time to be good at your job, no matter what it is. Consider Ruben Amaro Jr. a rebel.
Every time the Phillies general manager, who took the reins from Pat Gillick after the 2008 championship season, acquires a top-name free agent (Cliff Lee, Pedro Martinez, Raul Ibanez, Placido Polanco) or pulls off a trade to get a big-time player (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Hunter Pence, Roy Oswalt), you can't help but think Amaro can't possibly make it happen again, at least not anytime soon.
Boom. Then he does it again.
There's more to his success than just making the deals happen. Amaro, who was a bat boy for the club before playing for them from in the 1990s, entices not just star players, but quality individuals who have contributed to a chemistry that is so often a topic of conversation with the Phillies.
2nd that on Friedman
Los Angeles Times
But there is something to be said for winning without challenging for the league lead in spending, and a tip of the cap goes to those general managers. And how about Larry Beinfest of the Marlins, who assembled two World Series champions without spending $50 million in either one?
Our pick is Andrew Friedman of the Rays, whose team must vanquish either the Yankees or Red Sox just to get into the playoffs. In fact, over the last three years, the Rays have won the AL East twice, the Yankees once, the Red Sox not at all.