The Cubs have been very transparent about their lack of an intention to sign Joe Maddon to an extension at this time, instead letting him begin the final year of his contract in 2019 before seeing what’s what. It’s absolutely possible that the Cubs get out to a good start, the coaching situation looks (finally) smooth and successful, and everyone is happy to re-up at some point at midseason or even after the season. But it’s also possible that everyone is just kinda planning on this being Maddon’s last year at the helm of the Cubs.
That’ll be the storyline for as long as Maddon is still the manager and a pending free agent, and considering this tidbit from Theo Epstein, via Sahadev Sharma, that storyline is going to get another angle:
— The Athletic (@TheAthleticCHI) November 9, 2018
Epstein concedes that the Cubs have talked to Ross about an “expanded role” in 2019, after spending the last couple years as a special assistant in baseball operations, but also spending time away with his family, doing other projects, and at ESPN. Having Ross’s mind and energy around more often, in whatever role, would be a lovely thing.
… but let’s be honest: if Ross is around more often, the speculation about “manager of the future” is going to be deafening. Considering Ross is a recently-retired player who was widely respected and beloved by his teammates, and considering his closeness with the front office, there’s little reason not to do that kind of speculating if the Cubs are affirmatively seeking to expand his role in the 2019 season.
We’ll see how this plays out, in terms of a formal role designation. Keep in mind, the Cubs still haven’t announced their full coaching staff or minor league coordinators. That should be coming soon.