Rays' shake-up could give Kevin Cash more dynamic staff

WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash (16) in the dugout during the first inning of the game between the Cleveland Indians and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thursday, August 10, 2017.
WILL VRAGOVIC | Times Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash (16) in the dugout during the first inning of the game between the Cleveland Indians and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thursday, August 10, 2017.
Published Oct. 28, 2017

The Rays apparently were on to something with their quick coaching changes as reshuffling staffs quickly emerged as the preferred method of supposed improvement this off-season around the majors, including the dismissal of three managers — Dusty Baker, John Farrell, Joe Girardi — who made the playoffs.

Mutually-parted pitching coach Jim Hickey did well, as expected, rejoining Rays boss Joe Maddon in Chicago amid multiple appealing options in what has been a frenzied market among experienced coaches.

With one opening for a first base/assistant hitting coach left, the Rays have opted to stay with familiar faces rather than big names, promoting Kyle Snyder from Triple-A to replace Hickey, moving Charlie Montoyo from third base to replace reassigned Tom Foley as bench coach, and bringing back former minor-league player and coach Matt Quatraro from Cleveland to take over at third. (Plus, a prime candidate for that final spot is Triple-A hitting coach Ozzie Timmons, who also played in the organization.)

That apparently is part of the plan to not only give manager Kevin Cash more of his own staff as he enters his fourth season, but also to create a group that works more communally and in tandem with the data-driven front office, another common industry trend.

"When you have staff members that have been around a long time they all kind of get entrenched in their job and their part of their club," Cash said. "We're looking for that more versatile dynamic where we have a bunch of quality opinions and thoughts we can bring to the table at any time."

Quatraro, 43, will be a major part of that mission. Even though he was hired to be the third base coach — where he only minor-league, fall and winter ball experience — Cash detailed myriad responsibilities, including being "highly involved" directly with the catchers, and thus likely the pitchers, on assimilating scouting information into the daily game-planning. That's an assignment previously handled by the pitching coaches, but now will be shared duty, which may lessen the burden on Snyder in his first season on the job. The bet for the Rays is that the breakdowns Quatraro did the last four years prepping Indians hitters will translate conversely to helping the Rays attack hitters.

"Kyle Snyder has been in the big leagues (as a player), but a lot of his preparation (as pitching coach) is the mechanical, the mental approach for our pitchers. We don't want to miss a beat in that category," Cash said. "There is that preparation that comes with advancing opposing clubs, and Matt Quatraro has that experience over the last four years at the big-league level and has the familiarity with talking about pitchers and talking about hitters. So we look at that as being an asset."

Quatraro also will work with the catchers on drills and fundamentals, and will be expected to share thoughts and ideas with hitting coach Chad Mottola and the new assistant, who should be named this week.

"Those are the conversation we are kind of looking forward to, just baseball conversations," Cash said.

See ya at the lodge: Hickey going to the Cubs seems good for the Rays, too. Certainly better than the Red Sox, where they'd have to be concerned with what "secrets" he knew 19 times a year. Though it was unlikely he'd sit out, it does get them off the hook for his 2018 salary. And if he can help lure free agent Alex Cobb, that's good, too, because big bucks offers are needed so Cobb turns down the Rays qualifying offer. Does it make it more likely Chris Archer, Alex Colome or Jake Odorizzi gets traded to Chicago? Not necessarily. Certainly Hickey knows just about everything about them, and his new bosses would be foolish to not ask, but that could work both ways, strengths and blemishes, and they are going to trust their scouting data as well.

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Longo missing fo: 3B Evan Longoria was quite close with Foley, and showed it — unsolicited — when asked about earning his Gold Glove nomination: "For the last 10 years I've had Tom Foley hitting fungos to me and I owe a lot of the growing that I've done to him. I'm sad to see him go but wish him the best. I'll have to find a new fungo guy!"

Rays rumblings: Then team-president Matt Silverman was principal owner Stuart Sternberg's clear choice to take over baseball operations following Andrew Friedman's October 2014 departure, but it never seemed to be a long-term gig so his coming shift back to the business side is not surprising. ... Hickey said he's excited not just about reuniting with Maddon in Chicago, but also working in Wrigley Field and the NL. Also, that he hopes to meet the Rays in the World Series. … First person Cobb texted with news he was a Gold Glove finalist was ex-Rays buddy RHP Jeremy Hellickson, who won one in 2012. … High praise from national sports talker Jim Rome for RHP Chris Archer after an interesting podcast appearance: "One day @ChrisArcher22 will be in my chair. Today he's on my pod." … 1996 seventh-round pick RHP Mickey Callaway became the first player drafted and developed by the Rays to become a manager when he got the Mets gig. ... Related, former Rays OF / bench coach Dave Martinez is considered a frontrunner for the Nationals job, and former C Josh Paul an under-the-radar candidate with the Yankees. … Besides the obvious Rays ties to the World Series teams, special assistant Bobby Heck was Houston's 2008-12 scouting director when much of the core was assembled. … That recent expansion/realignment chatter was just that; commissioner Rob Manfred reiterated at the World Series that the Rays and A's stadium situations must be resolved first. ... The working agreement with Class A Bowling Green was extended through 2020. ... Mike Juhl left the Rays after four years as a special assignment scout to join the Padres. … Seeing St. Petersburg ranked the nation's 17th best city for baseball by some group called was, um, interesting. … Minor-league OFs Garrett Whitley (2015 first-rounder), OF Jake Fraley, C Zac Law and INF Mike Brousseau are headed to Australia to play for Perth, and Hudson Valley manager Craig Albernaz will be a coach.

Marc Topkin can be reached at Follow @ TBTimes_Rays