A couple of people were conspicuously absent from the Tampa Bay Rays’ Christmas meal: Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon. Even tougher for Kevin Cash, however, was when he looked under the Christmas tree in morning and saw only a few presents there.
“We had a tough year,” Stuart Sternberg explained. “We won only 77 games, there is no new stadium coming, and we need to cut payroll. I know you’re used to at least a few signings by the holiday season, but we simply can’t afford it.”
Cash looked under the tree and found a catcher, Rene Rivera, and an outfielder, Steven Souza. Cash thought to himself “Don’t we already have a catcher?” He looked around for Ryan Hanigan in his room and realized he was gone. He couldn’t find one of his favorite action figures either, Wil Myers.
Cash asked Matt Silverman about it, and Silverman said “We couldn’t buy many new things, but we thought you would like Rivera and Souza better than Hanigan and Myers. Your Hanigan toy is always breaking while the Myers one just might not be as special as we thought it was when we first got it.”
Cash ran back into his room and looked everywhere for Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist. Luckily, they were still there. Silverman said “They’re not going anywhere,” and while Cash could have sworn that Silverman had made the same remark about Myers, he pushed the thought into the back of his mind and found a way to smile.
As Cash searched for Longoria and Zobrist, he had also found that Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez, and Cesar Ramos were gone. “Good riddance,” he thought. “They were fun to have on the Rays for a while, but now we’re getting too old for them and they’re taking up spots that shinier toys could fill.”
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In their place under the tree, Cash found Kevin Jepsen, Mark Sappington, and Buddy Borden. He was a little confused about Jepsen until Silverman patted him on the shoulder and told him that his Jake McGee action figure had to go back to the toy store to be fixed. At least Jepsen was a capable replacement. Cash put Sappington and Borden in the Double-A and High-A sections of his closet respectively and wondered whether they could be contributors to his team’s success someday.
Finally, Cash did find some presents under the tree that had no strings attached: Ernesto Frieri, Bobby Wilson, Eugenio Velez, Corey Brown, and Jhan Marinez. Silverman exclaimed “Frieri is exactly the type of high-upside reliever we love getting our manager every year!” But while the other presents were nice, especially if they could be stashed at Triple-A, Cash looked at his toy roster and still saw a couple of things missing.
Cash asked Sternberg “Do you think we’ll have enough money to sign a backup catcher and a righty-hitting bench player?” Sternberg responded “I don’t know, but I will give Matt some flexibility.” That left Kevin Cash feeling a little bit down, but then he looked at Triple-A and saw Tim Beckham, Curt Casali, and Luke Maile. Even if his team didn’t make any more signings, at least the young guns would be ready before long.
It had been Joe Maddon’s house the previous year, but Kevin Cash knew that this Christmas was not as special as the last. There was no big red box filled with a Grant Balfour this time and not nearly as much enthusiasm about his team’s chances to make the postseason and maybe even win the World Series. However, he looked around his room and still saw some amazing toys, especially on the pitching side. “This season will be tough,” Cash thought, “but we still have talent and let’s give it our best chance.”
Happy Holidays from all of us at Rays Colored Glasses, and thank you so much for following our Tampa Bay Rays coverage throughout 2014.