Cash Extension Provides Continued Stability For Tampa Bay Rays Organization

Cash Receives Well Deserved Extension

Well deserved.  That’s the phrase most used to describe the new from early this week that the Tampa Bay Rays had extended the contract of Manager Kevin Cash through the 2024 season, with a club option for 2025.

“We couldn’t be happier with the impact that Kevin has made on our organization, an impact that extends well beyond our major league club,” said Senior Vice President, Baseball Operations/General Manager Erik Neander said in a press release. “We’re thankful for this stability and the many advantages that it provides, especially the opportunity to continue learning and improving together.”

Stability, a key work used by Neander and something that is the line that divides organizations that flounder and those that have long runs of success. While the names on the back of the uniforms may change over time, it is important to have stable leadership from ownership to the field management.

Stu Sternberg purchased the Rays in 2004 and took control of the franchise in 2005. Along with Sternberg came both Andrew Friedman and Matt Silverman who both assumed roles in the front office.

In quick order Friedman and Silverman transformed the Rays from doormats to perennial AL East contenders. While the front office was curating the talent in the minor leagues, Joe Maddon was creating a new culture on the field.

Maddon showed up to his interview with Friedman and company with a binder full of statistics that he felt could help the organization. “He had a thick binder,” executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman marveled. “He’s just extremely

The 2006-2007 season were more of the same for the Devil Rays (127- 197) but along with the name change from Devil Rays to Rays in 2008 came a new era of Rays baseball.

The magical 2008 season ended with a trip to the World Series where they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies. Overall, from 2008 through 2013 the Rays made the post-season four times (2008, 2010, 2011, 2013) and won 90 or more games in five of the six seasons.

The 2014 season was the first season of despair for the Rays, Maddon, and Friedman as the team struggled to a losing mark of 77-85. After the season the stability that had been so paramount to the organizations success was threatened.

After the season Friedman departed to take over the baseball operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Shortly after, Manager Joe Maddon exercised an out-clause in his contract and left to take over the Chicago Cubs.

The Rays were able to reshuffle the front office with solid in-house personnel that had already been groomed for promotion.

When Friedman departed after the 2014 season,  Silverman stepped into the role of President of Baseball Operations and promoted Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom to Vice Presidents of Baseball Operations.

Bloom and Neander had been groomed by the organization by fulfilling a multitude of roles in their respective time in the organization.

Bloom was hired in February 2005 and was named Director of Baseball Operations in 2011.  Neander was brought on board in January 2007 and spent the last three seasons as a Director of Baseball Operations.

While the front-office may have been a well coordinated easy fix, relatively speaking, the search for Joe Maddon’s replacement was much more difficult.

Maddon was regarded by many in the industry as one of the best managers in the game and for many he was the face of the franchise.

Merlot Joe and his Maddonism’s had grown over the years, as did the Rays being a competitive franchise on the field.

With Maddon and Friedman’s departures it was feared by some that the dark days of baseball in the Tampa-St. Pete market would return.

To find Joe Maddon’s replacement the Rays cast a wide net in the search for a new manager. They interviewed 10 candidates from different backgrounds and skills. They also  interviewed Maddon’s long time bench coach Davey Martinez.

In the end it was Kevin Cash who was chosen to guide the team and he has proven to be the right man for the job.

While the front office went about rebuilding a diminished farm system and found creative ways to move players with cumbersome contracts which included eating several million in committed dollars (Jose Molina, James Loney, Grant Balfour, Heath Bell, etc.) Cash was busy developing his clubhouse culture and brand of baseball.

During his first spring training opening press conference, Cash made it clear that he wasn’t big into team slogans, but he was big on being a fundamentally sound team that respects the game.

As the roster of players churned and turned over during the last four seasons so did his coaching staff.

Derek Shelton was replaced by Chad Mottola. Pitching coach Jim Hickey was replaced by Kyle Snyder. Charlie Montoyo became left the third base coaches box to replace Tom Foley as bench coach. Matt Quatraro was brought back to the organization from Cleveland and took over as third base coach. Rocco Baldelli became a roving coach and Ozzie Timmons became the first base coach.

Starting with the David Price trade in 2014, the Rays front office had begun a plan that would return the team to being competitive by 2018-2019.

Not all rebuilds are the same as the Houston Astros or Chicago Cubs complete overhauls. The Rays took a different yet well scripted approach to rebuilding their franchise:

  1. Elimination of underwhelming veterans with higher dollar contracts.
  2. Cleaning up any dead money on the books.
  3. Trading veterans in multi-player deals landing at least a player for today and a couple for the future.
  4. Improve the farm system through trades, drafting, and player development.
  5. Develop a transition roster that will allow for the organized timely promotion of the youth.
  6. Compete for the playoffs.
  7. Win a World Series

The stability of the front office expedited the voyage through the first five steps and having the same voice in the dugout beyond number six hopefully expedites the journey to number 7.