With the news that the Tampa Bay Rays started their final round of managerial interviews today by meeting with Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu, we wanted to put something together to celebrate the beginning of the end.
The interview interview with Wakamatsu lasted most of the day, with the Royals bench coach saying, “I was thoroughly impressed with the group. It was an in-depth interview, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be part of it. They were really impressive.” One down, two interviews to go.
In my mind, Kevin Cash is the heir apparent to the open position left in Joe Maddon’s wake. After all, many are of the consensus that Cash has shown the ability and patience to work with pitchers through rough times and the eye for talent. Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona publicly vouched for Cash,
When he was still playing, I thought he was a potential coach in waiting. He’s a guy who is going to rise through the coaching ranks quickly and will be a manager.
Strapped for an idea of what to write, Danny Russell (of DRaysBay) stepped to the proverbial plate and profiled Cash, the candidate we consider to be the strongest. You can read that in its entirety below:
Rays Manager Finalist Profile: Kevin Cash, by Daniel Russell (of DRaysBay)
You might already know Kevin Cash as a local boy, having grown up in Tampa and attended Gaither High School before enrolling at Florida State, where he played on the ‘Noles 1999 College World Series team.
The nephew of former major leaguer Ron Cash, Kevin had baseball in his blood. When he wasn’t drafted out of college, Cash joined the Cape Cod League and began a transition to catcher, flashing defense that looked to be among the best of any prospect in the game, as noted by Baseball America. Toronto liked what they saw as well, and signed him to a contract.
Once he had joined the Toronto system, Cash honed his trade under longtime Blue Jays catcher Ernie Whitt, the manager for Team Canada. By his second year as a professional, Cash had broken into the major leagues and received a third overall ranking in the Blue Jays system from Baseball America. In fact, it was the presence of Cash that allowed the Blue Jays to move another one of their top prospects, Jason Werth, to the outfield.
Unfortunately for Cash, his bat never followed his development behind the plate. Across two seasons of attempts at the major league level, Cash accumulated a meager .174 average and was traded to the defensive minded Rays for young starter Chad Gaudin ahead of the 2005 season. He would only feature in 13 games, however, and the Rays never promoted him back to The Show in 2006.
Cash was granted free agency at the end of the season, and signed with the Boston Red Sox. He caught 12 games for the World Series winning team in 2007, then 61 games in 2008 as the primary back up, aka “Tim Wakefield’s catcher.” In 2009 he signed with the Yankees and played an injury replacement role behind Jorge Posada and Jose Molina, catching 10 games for another World Series winning team, though he would be released in September of that season upon demotion.
In 2010, Cash signed with the Houston Astros, be was re-acquired by Terry Francona’s Red Sox for a utility infielder. He caught 49 games that season, then played one more year in the minors for the Rangers before hanging up his cleats at the end of 2011. Cash would later become a finalist for managing the Rangers, as he is with the Rays, this off-season. This was not an unforeseen future.
After he retired from baseball, Cash re-joined the team that signed him as a professional scout for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012. At the time, Boston writer Nick Cafardo was the one to announce Cash’s retirement and subsequent hire, and concluded the announcement by noting, “Cash is one of those guys you always thought would wind up being a major league manager.” Perhaps that was prescient.
As a pro-scout for Toronto, his duties included including preparing the binder for the club on how to pitchers should approach the opposing team’s batters, and how the hitters should approach the opposing pitchers. He never scouted the minors, but he did keep tabs on the system’s catchers.
Then, before the 2013 season, Cash got a call from his former manager now in Cleveland, Terry Francona, whom he played for across three seasons. Cash joined Cleveland as the bullpen coach, and immediately started to impress the staff with his ability to coach the players.
“When he was still playing, I thought he was a potential coach in waiting,” Francona toldmlb.com. “He’s a guy who is going to rise through the coaching ranks quickly and will be a manager.”
Friend of the site Steve Kinsella noted Cash was credited with the success of several Indian arms under their new regime,including the resurrected Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez in 2013, as well as Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and (most of all) Carlos Carrasco – who doubled his strikeout rate and nearly halved his walk rate – in 2014. Cash shares the development credit with Cleveland pitching coach Mickey Callaway, but his touch hasn’t been just with the pitchers.
Another friend of the site Jason Collette noted in an article for Fangraphs that it was Cash’s major league scouting that led the Indians to Yan Gomes, who was acquired from Toronto and then blossomed in Cleveland, and he’s worked with other catchers in the system to develop their defense. He’s even a bit of a recruiter, being credited with helping the Indians land first baseman Nick Swisher.
As the bullpen coach for the Indians, Cash also got high marks for his ability to judge the decisions to come in-game, as noted by former Rays catcher Chris Giminez to Roger Mooney:
“A situation would come up, the (bullpen) phone would ring and sure enough, the pitcher he told to anticipate that moment would be told to start getting ready.”
“His biggest thing is being prepared batter to batter. He knows his stuff, and he’s not afraid to tell the relievers to prepare for situations. More often than not, those situations would happen and the relievers were ready for them.”
Gimenez also provided descriptions that gave Cash the aura of another Moddon:
“He’d fit right in. He always has the players’ backs. He’s got a goofy, funny personality. He’s not afraid to joke with the guys. And he’s so prepared. It would be a seamless transition if he gets that job.”
Whether or not that fits into GM Matt Silverman’s desire for a new voice has yet to be seen, but the descriptions of cash seem to be the full package. Someone players trust, take advice from, and want to be around.
Kevin Cash also got high marks for his people skills from his boss, general manager Chris Antonetti, as noted in Marc Topkin‘s Tuesday morning column:
“Kevin cares about each player, not only as a player but as a person. He works to connect individually with each guy to build a trusting relationship, understand the player’s strengths, and think about ways to help him succeed. Beyond his extraordinary interpersonal skills, humility, and leadership qualities, Kevin is an avid learner that always seeks ways to improve. He constantly asks questions of those around him to learn from them to help him be a better coach.
“All of these attributes will undoubtedly continue to serve him well as he assumes additional leadership responsibilities. He may not have managerial experience but he is very well equipped to handle the various challenges that come with the job.”
These are the highest of marks possible for someone who would be come the youngest manager in the game, if he were chosen by the Rays, at age 36. Jon Heyman already noted Cash has “a strong chance” at winning the job, and if he does it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
As most of you are aware, midnight tonight (Tuesday, December 2) is the deadline for clubs to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players, or to decide that such players aren’t worth the risk in arbitration. “What does it mean to have a contract tendered,” you may be asking? Steve Adams (of MLB Trade Rumors) summed things up well,
In Major League Baseball, players become eligible for arbitration once they’ve accumulated three years of MLB service time (the top 22 percent of each year’s group of players with two to three years of service also qualify as “Super Two” players). Prior to arbitration, players have virtually no say in their earnings. They typically make the league minimum or perhaps maybe a few thousand more. (MLBTR’s Zach Links wrote a lengthy piece on how pre-arb salaries are determined earlier this year.) It is via arbitration that they can begin to earn more substantial salaries.
Per a tweet from the Rays, Tampa Bay has tendered all six arbitration eligible players:
#Rays have tendered contracts to all six arbitration-eligible players: RHP Cobb, INF Forsythe, OF Jennings, OF Joyce, LHP McGee, LHP Smyly.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) December 2, 2014
They have also tendered contracts to all the other unsigned players on their roster. Whether that means Matt Joyce and Desmond Jennings are safe and sound with the Rays in the 2015 season fails to be seen — both are still rumored to be on the trade bubble.
Finally, according to O’Connell Sports’ Twitter feed, outfielder Corey Brown of Plant High School signed a minor league deal with the Rays. He will be invited to Major League Camp.