ST. PETERSBURG — They first teamed in December 2014, when Kevin Cash was hired to manage the Rays and Erik Neander was working his way up the final rungs to leading the baseball operations department, and became quite the dynamic duo.
Now, with a run of success that includes five consecutive postseason appearances and more wins than all but three other teams over that span, the Rays have taken steps to keep them in place. The team announced Thursday that both have been rewarded with long-term extensions.
Contract terms were not revealed, but the deals will keep Neander and Cash in place for and beyond the team’s planned 2028 move into a new St. Petersburg stadium.
“I believe there are none better in baseball,” principal owner Stuart Sternberg said in a social media statement announcing the deals. “What we’ve all accomplished together has been remarkable, and the best is yet to come.”
Cash’s extension was more timely, as he was heading into the final season of his current contract. The team did hold a 2025 option, which was incorporated into the new deal. Neander had received a multiyear extension in September 2021 that reportedly ran through the 2026 season.
Neither Cash, Neander or any other team officials plan to comment until their scheduled media conference to open spring training Tuesday afternoon in Port Charlotte.
But as word spread quickly among Rays players Thursday, they were thrilled.
“I honestly couldn’t be happier for the organization,” top starter Zach Eflin said. “I think it really is a great day for Rays baseball. I don’t think this team is at where it’s at over the past five, six years without Erik and Cash, and them working together. To keep it simple, I’m so happy. And I’m happy that ownership recognizes that and took the steps to make sure those guys are locked up for a long time.”
Team MVP Yandy Diaz texted back a series of hand clap emojis, then said in Spanish, “I am very happy for them. They deserve this, and much more, because (the Rays) have been one of the best teams for the past five years in a row.”
Cash, 46, was hired to replace Joe Maddon before the 2015 season despite no previous managing experience. He has compiled a 739-617 (.545) record over nine seasons, with the five consecutive playoff berths including a trip to the 2020 World Series.
Cash quickly became considered one of the game’s best, winning back-to-back American League Manager of the Year awards in 2020-21, and finishing third in 2018, 2019 and 2023. He is the longest-tenured manager in the majors with his current team.
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The Tampa native originally was signed to a five-year deal. In October 2018, with one year remaining on that pact, he received the extension that ran through the 2024 season. That deal was worth about $10 million over the six guaranteed years, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Neander, 40, joined the Rays as an intern in 2007 with duties that included driving team officials to and from the airport before he impressively worked his way up.
He was named vice president of baseball operations in October 2014, along with Chaim Bloom, after then-baseball chief Andrew Friedman left for the Dodgers. Neander was promoted to general manager in November 2016 and became the top baseball executive a year later when Matt Silverman, who had stepped in for Friedman, shifted back to team president duties.
Following an industry trend, the Rays in September 2021 boosted Neander’s title to president of baseball operations. They also announced he had agreed to a multiyear extension, which the Times reported as being for five years through 2026.
Neander has led the Rays’ roster building and rebuilding efforts while operating with a limited payroll, willing to trade big-name stars like Evan Longoria and Blake Snell, and take chances on lesser-known players to blossom, such as Randy Arozarena and Isaac Paredes.
He was voted major-league executive of the year by his peers after the 2019 season, when the Rays returned to the postseason after a five-year absence.
Together, they make a good pair, according to two of the longest-tenured Rays.
“It’s great for them to get well-deserved extensions,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said. “Anytime you’ve got guys that can lead the team in that direction and make the decisions that they have to make every single day to keep putting a winning team out on the field for five years at the least, it’s always impressive.
“And I think it’s smart to keep them there. ... Guys like playing for Cash, guys like working with and working for Erik, and it kind of makes them want to stay as well. So, I feel it’s a great thing all around.”
Reliever Pete Fairbanks noted the extensions bring welcome stability to a team that regularly churns its roster.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “It’s nice to have on the staff side the same core group that pretty much has been running it for a while now. I think that that breeds continuity and, hopefully, continued success.”
Neander’s new deal was completed at least several weeks ago; Cash’s new contract came together more recently.
“It’s just a great combination that they have,” Eflin said. “Erik is so good at what he does. You’ve seen it the past five, six years with all the postseason berths. And Cash has been here for a while now; it just seems like he’s steady Eddie. Everybody loves Cash and loves playing for him. So, it really just makes sense for the organization.”
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