At the end of the 2014 season, the Chicago Cubs were happy with the progress some of their young players made (#cookies), the apparent talent of some of their bigger trades (Pedro Strop, Jake Arrieta, Anthony Rizzo, etc.), and their manager, Rick Renteria, but everything changed when Andrew Friedman left the Tampa Bay Rays for the West Coast.
His promotion and plane ticket to Los Angeles triggered an escape clause in then-Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s contract, which allowed him to leave his team early and eventually be aggressively pursued and paaaaaaaaid by the Chicago Cubs. If you recall, the Cubs parted ways with Renteria, and handed Joe Maddon a five-year, $25M deal almost immediately.
Four years later, Joe Maddon has made four straight playoff appearances with the Cubs, reached three NLCSs in a row from 2015-2017, and won one World Series title. His “worst” season with the Cubs featured 95 regular season wins.
On the surface, that looks and sounds like someone you’d think they’d want to lock down for as long as he’s willing to do it, but, well … perhaps not:
Theo Epstein announces that he has informed Joe Maddon and Alan Nero, the manager's agent, that the Cubs will not discuss an extension this winter and will re-evaluate the situation later in the 2019 season.
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) November 6, 2018
That is but one of many reports tonight confirming a simple message from the Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein: Manager Joe Maddon, entering his final year under contract with the Chicago Cubs, will not receive an extension this winter. Epstein says they’ll talk about it during or after the 2019 season – and, sure, maybe they will – but Maddon will nonetheless enter the year as a lame-duck manager, and that doesn’t always yield a continuing relationship.
To be fair, there are a lot of obvious, non-managerial-decision-related reasons for that. Consider that, at 64 years old, Maddon is already the oldest active manager in baseball. And, with an annual salary that will pay him $6 million in 2019, he’s also one of the highest paid managers in the game. That means that if you extend him, you’ll likely have the oldest and most expensive manager in baseball.
Obviously, yes, Maddon is both sprite and forward-thinking and it’s not like you want to cheap out with such an important role, but to say his age and expected price tag are not part of the conversation wouldn’t be correct. It also wouldn’t be correct to say those are determinative factors, but they’re in there somewhere.
It’s hard not to react from the gut that not extending Maddon this winter is a signal that this’ll be his last season in Chicago. I mean, I don’t want to attach a tone to something I wasn’t in person to hear myself, but …
Cubs won't talk extension with Joe Maddon at all this winter.
Theo: "We're not running away from Joe in the least bit, but given that we all have things we're working on to get more out of this team and to be one game better than we were last year, this is the appropriate move."
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) November 6, 2018
… that doesn’t sound too promising, does it?
Then again, you’ll recall that Maddon was not out there banging the drums aggressively for an extension, even as his agent noted that he did anticipate this kind of conversation would come eventually. Maybe this is not an unexpected turn:
More breaking on Maddon ! Theo Epstein said he had a great conversation with Joe and Joe’s agent Alan Nero about why they will not extend this season.Nero just said that Joe is fine with going through the season without an extension.
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) November 6, 2018
Maybe all sides really are just fine playing things out and seeing where the chips land. Well, I mean, I guess the Cubs at least must be fine with it, because that’s what is going to happen.
While this is a LONG while off and there are plenty of reasons it wouldn’t make sense, it’s sorta impossible to ignore the fact that Joe Girardi reportedly kept his name out of any serious running for a managerial gig this winter, despite as many as six openings throughout the league. Indeed, there were rumors – and only rumors – that he was holding out hope for the Cubs opening after the 2019 season, but, again, we’ll get there when we get there. We’re not even certain Girardi is a good fit for the Cubs yet.
For now, just know that Epstein was clear that no extension is coming right now – which at least takes the conversation off the table for the time being (while raising other questions, naturally) – and all sides are going to say the polite and proper things, and try to prevent this from becoming a distraction heading into the final year of Maddon’s contract.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.