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joe maddon raysIt’s going to be a busy day around here. I can tell you that now. If you aren’t already, you’ll want to be following BN on Twitter and liking BN on Facebook. This is the time of year.

Let’s start with the latest on former Rays manager Joe Maddon, who is now a free agent, and in whom the Chicago Cubs may have interest …

  • To that end, Maddon’s agent Alan Nero has confirmed to Marc Topkin that the Cubs are indeed among the teams that have reached out to their camp. So there is no more thinly-veiled illusion here: the Cubs are interested in Maddon. Strictly speaking, it’s possible the Cubs are interested in Maddon in some capacity other than manager – Nero has said that teams have expressed interest in Maddon as a high-level executive (presumably where they did not want to replace their manager) – but I doubt it.
  • Topkin gives the full rundown of the situation from the Tampa Bay perspective, including his opinion that the Cubs make obvious sense for Maddon. Topkin describes the falling out between the Rays and Maddon with some ambiguity, writing that it looked like an extension was coming before “something” happened, which Topkin says could have been a team (he says the Cubs are most speculated) letting its intentions be known to Maddon. For their part, Maddon and his agent have indicated that it was simply Maddon deciding that he wanted to see what was out there for him, and Nero has adamantly denied any contact with the Cubs before the opt-out.
  • If that’s all there is to the potential tampering, then let me say this: no, it would not be in the spirit of the rules for a team to reach out to Maddon while he was still deciding on an extension, but are you going to tell me that a team letting him know they were interested single-handedly scuttled any extension with the Rays? As in, Maddon had no idea that he was a desirable manager until another team told him so. He didn’t know his market value was nearly double the $3 million the Rays were offering, because that’s the top of the market for managers. He couldn’t possibly have deduced these things on his own until another team gave him a wink. Give me a break. If there are really to be any kind of allegations of tampering, it would have to be a heck of a lot more than the Cubs – or whatever team – letting Maddon know they’d be interested if he became available. Because just about *every* team would be interested, and Maddon and his agent would know it. Until and unless we hear more on this, I’m going to say it feels a lot like the Rays laying PR groundwork for their fans.
  • A little bit from Maddon, himself, on his time in Tampa Bay, and on his future (he reiterates that he could sit out a year if the right fit doesn’t come up right now).
  • I don’t want to get too ahead of things here, but something at the periphery to be considering in all of this: what happens to the Cubs’ coaching staff if there is a change? John Mallee just left the Astros to come to the Cubs. Chris Bosio is regarded as one of the best pitching coaches in the game. Eric Hinske reportedly turned down a chance to be the Yankees’ hitting coach to stay with the Cubs. And then you’ve got Maddon’s right-hand man in Tampa Bay, Dave Martinez, who was at one time considered for the Cubs’ managerial gig. Will he come with Maddon if he doesn’t get the managerial job in Tampa? There’s a whole lot to sort out here, if something happens in the manager’s seat.
  • Speaking of which, Ozzie Guillen tells Gordon Wittenmyer that he’d love to be a coach on Maddon’s staff if he got the job in Chicago. I don’t really have an opinion on that just yet, since it’s so speculative, but, man, it sounds like Guillen really, really, really wants to be a coach for Maddon on the Cubs. In general, that just makes you think about how attractive the pairing of Maddon and the Cubs could be to others outside the organization.
  • And speaking of that, yes, I do think bringing in Maddon would have a slight impact on the Cubs’ pursuit of free agents. No, I don’t think any big-timers are going to leave serious money on the table to come play for Maddon and the Cubs, but I do think it’s probably a pretty attractive tie-breaker. There’s also the messaging aspect: the Cubs say they’re turning the corner and they can point to the young talent, the renovation, and the impending TV deal. But actually spending big bucks to get Maddon when he happens to be available? That really does say something about where they believe they are, and what they believe is coming. Sooner rather than later. HOWEVA, don’t go too far with this stuff. In free agency, ultimately, money is always going to be the most important thing.
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