In case you didn’t realize, we’re past the halfway point of manager Joe Maddon’s five-year deal with the Chicago Cubs.
Signed to five-year/$25 million contract back in 2015, Joe Maddon has led the Cubs to three straight National League Championship Series and one World Series victory. He also won Manager of the Year in 2015, his third such award, and led the NL in the All-Star Game last season.
But with just two more years under contract, something will probably have to happen soon if the two sides hope to remain married – managers rarely enter a season as a lame duck, which means an extension would probably have to happen this year or next offseason.
But despite his appearance and general demeanor, Maddon is already 64 years old – the oldest manager in baseball – it’s fair to ask, Does he even want to keep going?
According to Maddon, as long as he is still enjoying it – like he is now – and somebody wants him, he’d love to give it another five years. “And of course, I’d like to stay here,” he told Jon Heyman about the prospect of re-upping with the Cubs.
Despite his age, as Heyman points out, Maddon still has every quality any modern front office could want in a manager. He’s analytically-inclined – having worked with Andrew Friedman in Tampa Bay and Theo Epstein in Chicago, no one could argue otherwise – he’s a great public face, and he’s uniquely relatable in the clubhouse. Most of the players on his team might be less than half his age, but does anyone get the sense that guys like Javy Baez or Ian Happ would be better with a different manager? I don’t.
In fact, in terms of letting players be themselves, sometimes, older managers with less to lose, so to speak, can afford to provide longer leashes, because they’re not trying to “prove” their worth and seriousness to the rest of the league. I think we’re mostly past a lot of that stuff now, but strict rules and discipline are certainly not absent from the game, especially for younger players.
Either way, as long as Maddon’s around, Pedro Strop can wear his hat however he wants, Kyle Schwarber can grow all the facial hair he sees fit, and Javy Baez’s periodic dreds can flow like they’ve never flown before.
So if Maddon wants to manage for five more years, hopes to stay in Chicago, and has two more years on his current contract, is a three-year extension with the Cubs a possibility? Epstein had nothing but positive things to say: “If you go three NLCS in a row, that’s not bad.”
There are some upfront concerns.
For one, Maddon is already tied as the highest-paid manager in baseball – his $5M/year salary actually kicked up to $6M thanks to a World Series escalator – so he’s already not cheap, and would probably get more expensive on an extension.
And while the Cubs have plenty of money and Maddon’s salary doesn’t count against the luxury tax, committing $7-8 million per year to a manager is significant – especially for a team that already has the highest paid President of Baseball Operations, and an increasingly robust front office. Combined, Theo and Joe might cost the Cubs close to $18 million per season if Maddon is extended. The purse is deep, but these are always considerations.
In the end, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find many Cubs fans who wouldn’t be okay with keeping Maddon around for another five years. He delivered the Cubs something no one else has been able to in over 100 years. He’s likable, friendly, easy-going, creative, interesting, analytically-inclined, and open to new ideas.
It’s pretty hard to beat that. So maybe the Cubs should give him whatever it takes to secure the last three years of his managerial career, and maybe that’ll happen as soon as this season.