Now that the Chicago Cubs have their new front office in place, and new manager in place, there are two more areas to renovate before heading into the 2012 season: the roster, and the coaching staff. The roster, of course, is an ongoing revamp that will take us well into January.
But the coaching staff process should come much more quickly, and at least one piece is already in place.
Manager Dale Sveum has elected to keep hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo on staff for the 2012 season, through which Jaramillo is already signed. Jaramillo, who had previously been with the Rangers, came to the Cubs before the 2010 season to much fanfare – the Cubs made him one of the highest paid coaches in baseball. Since then, the Cubs’ offense has been relatively disappointing, and their approach at the plate has become increasingly aggressive, a hallmark of Jaramillo’s time in Arlington. But, despite the philosophical difference with new Cubs’ brass that Jaramillo’s performance suggests, Sveum and the Cubs will keep Jaramillo around.
Two other Cubs’ coaches are under contract through 2012, bench coach Pat Listach and bullpen coach Lester Strode, and both are expected to be retained. As with most transitions, it’s good to preserve some institutional memory; and, in baseball specifically, it’s good to keep some coaches in place who’ve established relationships with Cubs players.
As for the biggest remaining fish in the coaching pond – the pitching coach – things remain undecided. Sveum has met with outgoing pitching coach Mark Riggins, who was a first-timer with Mike Quade in 2011, and plans to meet with him again soon. I’m not going to get too worried about a return from Riggins, under whom a number of Cubs’ pitchers had a marked performance decline in 2011 from 2010 (which, of course, is not solely Riggins’ fault, but it doesn’t look good). The meetings could be about any number of things, and I would be shocked if Sveum asks Riggins to return in 2012. Given Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s open belief in the importance of the pitching coach and of keeping pitchers healthy – and the fact that Sveum’s background is on the offensive/defensive side of the game – I’ve got to believe there will be a push to bring in an accomplished, veteran pitching coach (or, perhaps, a top up-and-comer).
First and third base coaches Bobby Dernier and Ivan DeJesus have been informed they will not be asked back in 2012.