The Tampa Bay Rays have agreed to a long-term contract extension with manager Kevin Cash. The lengthy commitment runs through the 2024 season, however, it also includes an option for another year. As of now, the financial details are unknown. This agreement replaces the prior deal which included one more season and a two-year option.
In spite of the odds placed against them, Cash guided the Rays to a 90-72 record this season, using a variety of unorthodox methods of utilizing the roster. And though 90 wins weren’t enough to earn the team a spot in the 2018 postseason, the strong showing, after a 1-8 (and 4-13) start to the season, generated optimism and enthusiasm for the team in the near future. Moreover, it demonstrated to the front office that Cash is the right person to translate their theories into action.
We put a lot on his plate, Rays GM Erik Neander said. When it comes to managing effectively, leading a club effectively, frankly, I don’t know how much more one could have demonstrated over the course of a season than what he did.
… Under Kevin’s leadership, our teams have always played hard. They’ve played with energy, and by and large, they’ve played the game the right way. In our opinion, taking a look at this thing, the way that our teams have played has a lot to do with the example Kevin sets and the consistency which he approaches day to day.
The energy, the competitiveness. There’s a certain authenticity that we’ve spoken to over time here, that makes him real and allows him to motivate and to relate to a wide assortment of people. … Our players want to play for him, and he’s just created a wonderful culture for our group.
Cash was initially hired in a 2014-15 offseason that saw the massive organizational overhaul — Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon both departed for Los Angeles and Chicago, respectively. The former backstop oversaw a pair of middling 80-82 seasons sandwiched around a brutal 68-94 2016 campaign.
Even before the start of the 2018 season, Tampa Bay was under an immense amount of pressure. The MLBPA filed a formal complaint against the team because of their cost-cutting roster decision. The club then shipped away even more veterans, with Chris Archer following catcher Wilson Ramos, starter Nathan Eovaldi, closer Alex Colome, and outfielder Denard Span out the door during the course of the season.
Yet the young squad performed admirably, improving from a .500 record at the start of August to finish the season on a 34-16 tear. Cash, aided by the data-driven front office, maximized the emerging player’s talent to great effect.
There also is a renewed hope of bolstered future revenues, as the organization is expected to officially announce its, as of now, generous new TV deal prior to the start of the 2019 season.
Cash enters this new phase of his term with a vote of confidence from the front office and more job security than, well … the former skipper, Joe Maddon.
I’m incredibly appreciative of the opportunity that was presented four years ago, and now, Cash said. I’m thankful for the support of Stu and the ownership group. From Matt and Brian to Erik and Chaim, all of our baseball ops people, our fans and the players.
I think this game has always been about the players and will always be about the players. But any positive impact myself, my staff, our front office can do to help lead them in the right direction is a huge benefit.
If Cash stays through 2024, he will become the longest-tenured manager in franchise history. He, too, would lead the Rays into a new stadium, be that in Ybor City or in Pinellas County.
Expectations have been raised, and it will be interesting to see what sort of additional tinkering is pursued over the 2018 offseason.
Rays offseason plans
The Rays enter the offseason with a committed payroll of around $32-million. Neither free-agents OF Carlos Gomez nor RHP Sergio Romo are expected to return. As Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) writes, upgrades seem likely for arbitration-eligible 1B/DH C.J. Cron (despite 30 homers) and C Jesus Sucre. A glut of lefty-hitting outfielders (and overall) creates the potential to trade Mallex Smith or, less likely, Kevin Kiermaier.
The expectations are up, Neander said. We go into next year off the season we had, we want to improve. And to improve on the number of wins we had this year should put us in the territory where we’re expecting playoffs.
How to go about doing that? How to achieve it? How to balance the depth that we have? We have a lot of puzzle pieces, now it’s a matter of which ones fit and which ones can be repurposed.
I don’t think we’re forecasting an active winter, so to speak. But there’s a lot that we need to think through to make sure we’re as competitive as we can be and as functional as we can be, and not just a young, talented team.
Trading for an impact player or two, or signing a few free agents — while different, given the team’s previous offseason moves — seem to be a given.