We’re not yet to the point where Joe Maddon managing without an extension in place is going to be a public distraction. The Cubs’ skipper is entering his fourth season with the team, but he’s under contract for one more year after this one, and you’d really only start to feel that public pressure to make a decision after this season.
That said, with so much of the Cubs’ core – including the front office – in place through precisely 2021, we’re certainly plenty within the window where a two-year extension for Maddon, tacked onto his current deal to take him through 2021, would be wholly appropriate. Tentatively, I think that’s what we’re going to see happen.
But, at 64, Maddon is among the older managers in the game, and at some point, a responsible front office must begin the process of succession planning, especially now that Maddon’s lieutenant, Dave Martinez, has left to manage the Nationals. It would be nice to have someone on Maddon’s staff to whom you could point and say, “Yeah, if Maddon leaves in two years, that’s the guy.”
Maybe the Cubs do have that guy. Maybe now that Brandon Hyde has slide back into the bench coach role, he’s that guy. Or maybe one of the positional coaches just needs that chance to take the reins, and he can be successful.
The game tends to be moving younger and younger on the manager side, though, with a particular mold emerging as a popular kind of candidate: only recently retired, a couple years of some kind of different baseball experience after playing, and then, boom, into the clubhouse as a manager.
To that end, I do not find Jon Heyman’s latest report all that surprising: “The Cubs identified three potential future managers to try to convince to come as coaches (one of whom now has a managing job), but Mark DeRosa, Raúl Ibañez and Aaron Boone wound up not coming.”
I want to be crystal clear in parsing the language here so there’s no confusion: Heyman is not saying that these guys were identified specifically to replace Joe Maddon. Instead, he’s saying only that these three were identified by the Cubs’ front office as possible future managers, so the Cubs wanted to get them in the door. From there, perhaps they emerge as successors, perhaps not. But if you think they can be a guy down the road, and if they’re at the point in their career where they want a coaching gig, why not start the process of getting them acquainted with the players, the facility, the staff, and The Cubs Way?
Unlike their success landing the free agents of their choosing, though, the Cubs weren’t successful on this front, according to Heyman.
The three men the Cubs targeted are an interesting group, all charismatic younger guys in their near-ish post-playing days, and all with substantial broadcast experience, but no coaching experience. And only Ibañez had experience in a baseball front office, having worked a bit in the Dodgers’ front office. They do seem like good guys to get in the door. But Boone got the Yankees managerial job, and the other two guys opted not to become Cubs coaches at this time.
Interestingly, I can think of a charismatic younger guy in his near-ish post-playing days who has some broadcast experience and some front office experience, but who hasn’t coached yet, and is already connected to the Cubs: David Ross. Perhaps the Cubs approached him, too, about a coaching job, and perhaps he wasn’t quite ready to jump back into the grind.
I can also think of younger guy in his near-ish post-playing days (not sure on the charisma – just don’t have a sense yet), who also has some front office experience, and who is now a coach: new Cubs first base coach Will Venable.
Heyman’s report suggests that the coaching spot the Cubs were looking to fill with these guys was the quality assurance post vacated by Henry Blanco, who followed Martinez to Washington. The Cubs have not yet filled that position, so perhaps they’re holding it open for this type of “potential future manager” type of guy.
In any case, I think the takeaway from this report is that the Cubs are thinking ahead, even if only as contingency planning. There seems to be a “type” that they were targeting, and they did not come away with what they were hoping.