It’s really remarkable to see what’s happened in the last two hours. Nobody saw the Joe Maddon opt-out coming in the first place – just a week ago, he said he was staying, even after Andrew Friedman left – but instantly everyone in the national media was hearing a consistent refrain: how about the Chicago Cubs?
I started collecting tweets to share on the subject, in addition to the ones in the earlier post, but it grew overwhelming and redundant. Suffice it to say: is it a national writer or reporter? Do they sometimes talk about rumor-y stuff? Then they’ve connected the Cubs and Joe Maddon, at least in speculation, at some point in the last two hours. There. You’re covered.
That doesn’t mean anything will happen, mind you. Yes, it’s an almost unthinkable volume of smoke all pointing in the same direction, but much of it is of the “educated guess” variety. Further, even Maddon’s agent says he expects there to be multiple legitimate suitors (and why wouldn’t there be?):
Maddon’s agent, Alan Nero, says he contacted several teams after opt-out. Expects 4 to 5 legit suitors. Says Maddon wants to explore FA.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) October 24, 2014
Many of the projected suitors, however, immediately denied any kind of interest. The Dodgers:
Dodgers are indeed out on Joe Maddon, as @Ken_Rosenthal said. Not happening. Period. Cubs and Mets considered by friends to be favorites.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 24, 2014
And those Mets:
#Mets exec says Terry Collins will be manager on Opening Day 2015
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) October 24, 2014
Here’s the thing about those denials, though: what possible incentive would those teams have to say, “Yeah, we’re going to take a run at Maddon”? And what possible disincentive do they have to just go ahead and deny it now?
Think about it: if they do want to pursue the guy, but know they might not get him, there’s no sense in leaving your current manager (whom you might like) twisting in the wind. So you deny it. And then if you happen to get the guy, no one will care or remember that you denied it in the first place.
So, I would take any and all denials, no matter how unequivocal, with a heavy grain of salt. There’s only one team with a managerial opening right now (the Twins), so if Maddon is going to manage in 2015, some team out there is very likely to dump its current manager for the prettiest girl at the prom. It’s just the way these things go.
So, will it – or should it – be the Cubs? I don’t think we should pretend to know the impact or value of managers in the same way we can (reasonably) know it when it comes to players. So I’m not going to say Maddon is clearly the best manager in the game, and the Cubs absolutely have to get him if they can, etc. I think there are reasons to be very happy with the job Rick Renteria did last year, even if his in-game decisions could use some work. He did very well the things that were most important to the Cubs in 2014 (and might be in 2015, too): got the young stars on track, created a positive environment to transition in youngsters, and worked well with those youngsters. (And, man, today can’t be easy for him. Hope he’s somehow oblivious to all of this.)
But if the Cubs believe that Maddon could be the guy they want in charge when they start winning? Even if they thought it wasn’t going to be the right time to make that move for another year or two? Well, we say it with free agent players all the time: you can only sign them when they’re available. And if the Cubs really believe Maddon could be the guy, then they’ll have to do something that might feel a little untoward, and just go after Maddon with both guns blazing. If they don’t get him, well, then they mend fences with Renteria however they need to do it. There are relationships, but this is also business.
Note: I said that’s if the Cubs truly believe Maddon is the clear and obvious guy for them. Maybe they don’t. We don’t yet know.
You don’t worry too much about price in these situations, but, let’s be clear: wherever Maddon goes, he’s going to get paid. A lot. Highest paid in baseball money. Quality free agent player money. It remains debatable whether managers are actually worth that kind of money.
As for my opinion, well, I don’t have a strong one yet. I like so much of what Renteria did, but I also understand the cachet of Maddon. As I said, I can’t sit here and tell you that I know Maddon is a guy the Cubs just have to hire. Maybe the front office knows it, but I certainly don’t. And I definitely don’t want to put myself in a situation where I say something stupid because I’m caught up in the hype, only to later realize that I was perfectly pleased with what the Cubs already had in place.
That is all to say, if you’re looking for a “hot take” in this process, you’re not going to get one from me. With players, I can at least dig into the stats, aging curves, valuations, etc., and make a strong case one way or the other. With managers, it’s just never been that simple. Too much of their value is obscured to outside observers, and too much of that value is hard to quantify.
So, mostly, on this one, I’m just along for the ride. I will, of course, keep you posted on the latest along the way.
UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal spoke to the man, himself and posted the comments on his Facebook page. Go read it. The gist? Maddon had a two week window in which to opt out, so he gave it some time to think. When asked about the Cubs, specifically, Maddon basically just said he’s got to hear what folks have to say to him before he says too much.