Bryce Harper

When Dave Martinez heads to Nationals, Cubs staff will be shaken up once again

davemartinez.jpg
USA TODAY

When Dave Martinez heads to Nationals, Cubs staff will be shaken up once again

The Washington Nationals are zeroing in on Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez as their next manager, and that will mean even more changes to Joe Maddon's staff in an offseason already full of surprises.

Martinez interviewed in Washington late last week and had been viewed as an early frontrunner for a job that comes with World Series-or-else expectations.

Jon Heyman of MLB Network and FanRag Sports first reported Sunday morning that the Nationals are expected to announce the Martinez hire once the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros finish this year's World Series, ending Major League Baseball's news blackout.

In becoming a first-time manager during Bryce Harper's last season before becoming a free agent, Martinez brings 10 years of experience as Maddon's bench coach with the Cubs and Tampa Bay Rays, the credibility from a long playing career in the big leagues and a fluency in Spanish as well as all the analytics that now run the modern game.

Martinez will need all of that and more in replacing Dusty Baker, who won back-to-back division titles during his two seasons in Washington and still got fired after the Cubs beat the Nationals in a one-run elimination game in the divisional round of the playoffs. (It's worth noting that Baker only got that job once negotiations collapsed with Bud Black, a sign of some of Washington's internal drama.)

The Cubs are hoping the changes will help reenergize the team and refocus Maddon, who will already be working with different pitching (Jim Hickey), hitting (Chili Davis) and third base (Brian Butterfield) coaches in 2018.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Joe Girardi, Bryce Harper and trades

joegirardi.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Joe Girardi, Bryce Harper and trades

With Joe Girardi out of a job in New York, could he ever manager again in Chicago? And how does his availability affect Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez in his bid for a manager gig somewhere? Do these Cubs coaching changes reflect more heavily on Joe Maddon moving forward?

Is Bryce Harper coming to the Cubs in two years or is he just a big flirt? Who are the Cubs most likely to trade of their young position players?

Patrick Mooney, Jeff Nelson and Tony Andracki attempt to answer all these questions as the Cubs offseason ramps up intensity.

Take a listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast below:

Bryce Harper is flirting with Chicago

Bryce Harper is flirting with Chicago

Bryce Harper's flirtation with Chicago and his bff Kris Bryant is growing.

Case in point:

TUESDAY: The superstar slugger was spotted at a Blackhawks game Tuesday night sitting center stage in his hometown of Las Vegas, notably NOT wearing any Golden Knights gear.

MONDAY: Bryce Harper took a photo with fans while wearing a Bulls hat.

ALSO MONDAY: Harper included a snap of his dog on his Instagram story. His dog's name? Wrigley.

Tracking back further

Oct. 11: Harper posts a photo of the Wrigley marquee after Game 4 of the NLDS, stating, "Until next time! Love this place":

August 5: The wives of Harper and Bryant got together to stir the pot themselves, even using the hashtag #HarperToTheCubs, while saying, "Fans want it...& we are more than good with this idea..."

June 27: Harper posted an Instagram photo with Kris Bryant and their wives after a Cubs-Nationals game using the hashtag #Back2BackOneDay

June 4: Peter Gammons really got the ball rolling on the Harper-to-Chicago train when he hopped on the Mully and Hanley Show and said, "I have people tell me that Bryce Harper really would prefer to play for the Cubs."

And then there was that one time in May 2015 when Harper was sporting a Blackhawks T-shirt.

Now the other side:

Let's play Party Pooper and put on our Debbie Downer hats here for a second.

On July 9, Harper told the Washington Post he loves trolling people, like that Instagram hashtag with Bryant:

"I do that to the media because they stir it more than I do. That's why i do the things I do at times, because it's funny to me. It's like, 'Alright, people want to talk about this and talk about that. Why not just throw this out there and make them think about it?'"

Well, he's made us think about it, that's for sure.

Harper and his agent — Scott Boras — have a lot to gain by getting the Cubs involved and with the natural tie-in there with hometown buddy Bryant already, it's a perfect fit to help drive up the price tag.

If Harper and his camp want $400 million, the best way to get that is to get the Cubs involved, even if the chances are incredibly low that he signs there. There are probably several people at Boras Corp. right now whose main focus is helping craft a public image for Harper.

He is the kind of guy who knows any hat he wears or T-shirt he rocks is scrutinized, so he and his people undoubtedly spend a ton of time thinking about that and analyzing those decisions before he even steps foot in public.

From the Cubs' perspective, it will be hard to figure the money out to make Harper-to-Chicago a reality.

Jason Heyward has a player opt-out in his contract after the 2018 season, but right now, it seems there is no way he takes it. He's due $106 million from the start of 2019, including $20 million that season alone and obviously his best position is also right field.

The Cubs also have 2019 money committed to Jon Lester ($22.5 million), Ben Zobrist ($12 million) and Anthony Rizzo ($11 million) plus options on Jose Quintana ($10.5 million) and Pedro Strop ($6.25 million) that are likely to be exercised as of right now. That's $82.25 million committed to just six players (assuming the options are picked up), plus Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks and Addison Russell in their second years of arbitration with Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Mike Montgomery in their first years of arbitration.

The money would be really, really difficult to manage if Harper gets $30-$40 million a season, but hey, that's not our problem to figure out.

Bryce Harper: The Cubs' right fielder in 2019...or baseball's biggest troll/flirt?

Content producer Jon Graff contributed to this post.