Joe Maddon’s agent, Alan Nero, was on the radio with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette today discussing, among other things, the timeline of the Chicago Cubs hiring his client to be their next manager. As we’ve discussed at length, Maddon’s former team, the Tampa Bay Rays, suspects something fishy with the way Maddon appeared to change his mind about an extension with the Rays after his boss Andrew Friedman left for the Dodgers a few weeks ago.
Well, Nero’s version of events not only squares with those laid out by Theo Epstein in his statement on the firing of Rick Renteria, but also asserts even more aggressively that there was nothing improper in the way the Cubs pursued Maddon.
According to Nero, the very first contact between the Cubs and Maddon’s camp was a request for confirmation that Maddon indeed had opted out of his contract – a request that the Cubs also made of MLB – and came after Nero had already been in contact with 10 other teams. Epstein, said Nero, would not talk to Maddon and his representatives until he had clearance from the Commissioner’s office.
Nero went on to say that Tampa Bay was not offering Maddon anything close to market value on an extension, and that allegations of tampering are “silly” and “insulting.”
Now then. We’re in a situation where either Epstein and Nero are flat out lying about the timeline on this (and there was some kind of back-channel contact that preceded the decision to opt out), or Tampa Bay is making circumstantial assumptions about Maddon’s change of heart to opt out of his deal and see what else was out there for him. Whichever explanation is correct, it seems highly unlikely that Tampa would ever be able to prove tampering, in large part because it sounds like the Cubs and Maddon’s camp went to painstaking lengths to do this thing through the proper channels and involved MLB immediately, and in part because I doubt they would be so public and vociferous in their denials of tampering if they had concerns that it would come back to bite them.
To me, it seems like the Cubs simply heard of an upcoming opportunity with respect to Maddon last Thursday, and pounced immediately. That’s why it seemed like they moved quickly – almost too quickly – the next day, when word of the opt-out became public Friday afternoon, to try and bring Maddon on as their next manager. By then, the Cubs had already been doing diligence for a full day, and the rest of us were still in shock about the opt out.
We’ll see if a counterpoint filters out from Tampa Bay’s side, either explicitly or in a sourced report. For now, the latest from the Tampa Bay Times is that (1) a tampering investigation might not turn up anything, and (2) the compensation if it did might not be a whole lot. Maybe that’s a signal that this is just going to go away.