Although he’s viewed by many as a lame duck manager, playing out the string of his initial five-year contract with the Chicago Cubs, Joe Maddon very clearly does not see himself that way.
Arguably the most successful manager in franchise history, Maddon told reporters, including MLB.com, that his optimism about his future with the Cubs is “very high, yeah …. Very high. Very, very high.” That seems high.
Maddon added that he’s “operating in that I believe we’ll be together for a couple more years at least,” and does not expect the decision to come down to wins and losses so much as interactions, communication, and the ability to work well together going forward. Although he could frame himself as a “free agent” for this offseason, he is making it very clear that he wants to stay with the Cubs.
All in all, I think that’s to be expected from Maddon, who has been extremely successful with the Cubs, and whose core – including the front office – is going to be together for another couple years after this season. It’s only logical that Maddon would expect to be extended through that same window, though probably not longer at this time.
I also think Maddon is completely correct that his team’s success or failure in the win/loss column is not going to solely dictate whether the Cubs effort to retain him. Truly, it’s going to be about whether the front office feels a new voice/message/structure is needed, and whether that can be accomplished by manipulating the roster and doing other work behind the scenes. It feels like they tried that second part this past offseason with mixed results, but I don’t want to sit here and close any doors in August, especially not when you’re talking about a manager who has been as effective as Maddon has been.
At age 65, Maddon is long in the tooth for a manager in today’s game, though he’s as respected as they come. He also currently makes $6 million, which is long in the pocket for a manager in today’s game, and I suspect that aspect would have to be negotiated on any new deal.
Ultimately, I think we’re going to see the season play out, and we’re going to see the front office explain that they’re going through some kind of process for determining – with Maddon – the best path forward. If that means a new contract, I wouldn’t expect it to be for more than two years, again, to coincide with the bulk of the current core and the front office’s contracts.*
*That post-2021 offseason might be, uh, kinda ridiculous. Could be a front office transition, a manager search, a ton of departing free agents, and possibly the kickstart of a new roster overhaul. Just FYI in advance, and here’s hoping a transition structure is loooooong in place by then, since everyone already kinda knows what’s going to happen then.