We’re just 24 hours into the swirl of Joe Maddon stuff, but it feels like an eternity, given the volume of news, rumors, and speculation cascading from the faucets. And despite that cascade, the Chicago Cubs have not yet commented one way or another about whether they’ll pursue Maddon (at least one report says they will), and about the status of their current manager, Rick Renteria. You don’t want to read too much from the absence of a thing, but the silence at Addison and Clark does suggest that the possibility of pursuing Maddon is on the table, if not already underway.
I’ve heard from a couple folks in a position to have a credible opinion about these kinds of things, and each believes this isn’t just the latest crazy rumor. This is something seriously being considered, and something that has a legitimate shot at happening. Maybe that sounds obvious to you by now – and certainly every strong rumor is pointing in that direction – but it still has my head spinning a bit. Frankly, I’d expected folks behind the scenes to be saying, “Yeah, this is a little overblown.” But that’s not what folks are saying.
On to some of the latest …
- Buster Olney writes that the feeling around the league is that Maddon to the Cubs all but done – and maybe always was. Olney’s suggestion there is that Tampa Bay could look into tampering charges (i.e., Cubs impermissibly contacted Maddon about a possible offer before he’d officially opted out). It’s very hard to prove, especially if savvy teams/agents use backchannels to communicate very generic things (for example: if you do happen to opt out, we, eh hem, may want to speak with you). But if Maddon does sign on with the Cubs, you can expect the tampering discussion to at least come up. Indeed, you can sense the groundwork being laid in comments from the Rays about Maddon leaving, and about how they were surprised and disappointed that it seemed like their generous extension offers were not even really considered.
- (I still think it’s interesting – and I’m not pushing any angle here, I truly just think it’s interesting – that the same guy who broke the news of Maddon’s opt-out (Olney), is also the guy with the most assertive stance on where Maddon is going (the Cubs), and is also suggesting that if that happens, tampering charges could follow. One could certainly imagine a scenario where Olney becomes privy to all of that information at once.)
- Gordon Wittenmyer reports that sources say the Cubs are at the top of Maddon’s list right now. Dave Kaplan says the Cubs are frontrunners, but there are several teams involved.
- It’s fair to expect Maddon to shop around with some other teams, by the way, even if it’s true that the Cubs are his top choice (and if it’s true that the Cubs reciprocate those feelings). If you’re Maddon, you may want the Cubs, but you also want to ensure you get the best contract you can get, and shopping around may help bring the Cubs up a bit.
- Nick Cafardo hangs on the possibility that, despite statements to the contrary, the Dodgers could figure out a way to get Maddon in the door as the manager. But, obviously, the Cubs feature prominently in his piece.
- Joel Sherman reports that Maddon will seek a deal in the five-year, $25 million range. Yes, that’s a ton for a manager, but it’s pretty much there at the top of the managerial market, which is what Maddon should command. We can debate whether managers are worth that much, of course. To that, I’d say only that he would need to be worth only two wins (compared to a replacement-level manager, if there is such a thing) to be a steal at $5 million per year. Could a manager be worth that much? Easily, right?
- Maddon’s candor in this New York Times piece about his decision to opt out is probably characteristic of the kind of guy he is. A sample: “I’ve never had that moment [for a chance at free agency], and I’ve been doing it for a while. I’ve had moments where I’ve asked for a couple of extra thousand bucks and been told no, and what did I do? I signed. But this is different. It’s interesting and exhilarating and scary, all at the same time …. Fair [in reference to the offer from the Rays] is always in the eye of the beholder. A subject with the Rays has always been limitations, and I’ve always settled for those limitations. I told my wife I really didn’t think I could settle the next time.”
- One thing on the denials of interest from virtually every other team out there besides the Cubs: not only do those denials mean very little for the reasons I said yesterday (i.e., of course you deny, because there’s no downside to denying and then getting the guy), but they also mean very little for a reason Maddon’s agent mentioned this morning on the radio. That reason being that the teams keeping their managers might want to bring Maddon on, for now, as a high-level executive in the front office (and then maybe see where things stand next year). Even if the Cubs are the primary managerial landing spot for Maddon, let’s be very clear: there is competition out there.
Whatever happens here, I want to reiterate some “human” things: if the Cubs do go full-on for Maddon, I hope it happens very quickly, and that there’s a ton of transparency with Rick Renteria. He doesn’t deserve to have this hanging over him for too long, especially if he’s completely in the dark. That said, everyone involved is a respectful professional, and everyone knows the score – guys like Joe Maddon aren’t available every year, and the possibility has to be explored, even if it’s very uncomfortable. Renteria is a perfectly acceptable, capable manager for the Cubs in 2015, and he’s going to be paid either way. If the Cubs go another way, I feel confidently that they’ll treat Renteria as well as possible in a situation like this. And if the Cubs wind up sticking with Renteria, I’m not going to feel any sense of disappointment. Other than the obvious awkwardness, this seems like a win-win situation *IF* it is handled well.
On that: since Renteria is under contract for two more years, would the Cubs consider re-assigning him if they hire Maddon? There are some reports that suggest it’s possible, but I just don’t see it. Imagine you’re Renteria in that situation, and imagine how difficult it would be. Obviously it would be ideal to somehow retain Renteria, especially for his success in working with the Cubs’ young players, but it just doesn’t seem realistic.