Cubs

Cubs looking to deal, but Cole Hamels sounds like a long shot

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Cubs looking to deal, but Cole Hamels sounds like a long shot

The Cubs are looking to deal, but trading for Cole Hamels by the July 31 deadline still sounds like a long shot.

Hamels throwing the first no-hitter against the Cubs in 50 years doesn’t really change the calculus for Theo Epstein’s front office. The Philadelphia Phillies weren’t sold on Javier Baez heading into this injury-interrupted season, and it’s hard to convince anyone that Starlin Castro is a player worth rebuilding around now.

“I don’t necessarily think we’re close to trading for a big contract,” Epstein said before Monday’s 9-8 win over the Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field. “Certainly, in our position, right now it’s not necessarily something that we’re close to – giving up a ton of talent and taking on a big contract.

“Maybe that changes between now and Friday, but right now we’re not close to something like that.”

[MORE CUBS: Cubs catcher David Ross has 'Babe Ruth' moment against Phillies]

Hamels is guaranteed $73.5 million over the next three years, plus about $8.5 million for the rest of this season. The Cubs have been resistant to the idea of paying the price in terms of dollars and prospects for the 2008 World Series MVP, figuring it makes more sense to just buy another frontline pitcher in free agency.

Assuming the Cubs can operate with that much financial flexibility. Epstein’s baseball operations department has less than $5 million to play with at the trade deadline, a built-in cushion for a payroll that can essentially be broken out as $100 million plus the $20 million leftover from last year’s Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes.

The Cubs made a waiver claim on Hamels last August, but couldn’t work out a deal as the Phillies pulled back their homegrown, face-of-the-franchise lefty, letting the trade rumors hang over this entire season.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Since then, the Cubs have graduated Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber to the big leagues, making them virtually untouchable. The upper levels of their farm system don’t have the same blue-chip prospects right now.

If you were trading for Hamels, wouldn’t it have happened by now?

“I don’t know,” Epstein said. “Deadlines are there for a reason. There’s always a flurry of activity right before the deadline. Teams’ bargaining positions tend to move towards the middle the closer you get to the deadline.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers are reportedly the frontrunners to land Hamels, who made history on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field and erased any doubts about his stuff.

“I think he was a pretty good pitcher before he no-hit us,” Epstein said. “He came out throwing 96 (mph) in the first inning. It was pretty clear he was trying to make a point. Point well made.

“I think he wanted to show that he’s still pretty good, even after a couple rough starts. He could have made the point against someone else but…we were in the way.”

Joe Girardi steps down as manager for Olympic qualifying team to pursue MLB openings

Joe Girardi steps down as manager for Olympic qualifying team to pursue MLB openings

Joe Girardi’s name has come up for just about every managerial opening in Major League Baseball and it sounds like he is all in on pursuing that opportunity.

Girardi was set to manage USA Baseball’s Olympic qualifying team. He was named the manager of Team USA in August. His first tournament was going to be the upcoming Premier12 tournament, which is the first chance to qualify for the Olympics. Camp was set to begin on Oct. 21 and the U.S.’s first game is Nov. 2.

Instead, Girardi has stepped down. USA Baseball broke the news with a press release that announced Scott Brosius, a former teammate of Girardi’s on the Yankees, will take over.

The reason is the interesting part. He stepped down “as he pursues open managerial opportunities in Major League Baseball.”

At the very least, it sounds like Girardi is interested in at least one of the openings in MLB. He interviewed with the Cubs last week so this won't quell any speculation that he would come back to the North Side as a manager.

David Ross may still be the odds on favorite to fill the Cubs’ vacancy, but Girardi’s apparent interest in rejoining the ranks of MLB managers is certainly noteworthy. One would think if Girardi wants to get back into managing in MLB, at this indicates, he will get a job. Now the question is where he will land.

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Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Barring a Cubs-Angels World Series, the Wrigley Field faithful might not have much of an opportunity to welcome Joe Maddon back to The Friendly Confines.

It didn't take long for Maddon to find a job, as he reportedly agreed this week to join the Los Angeles Angels as their next manager. This was a widely speculated move after the Angels let go of manager Brad Ausmus just one year into a three-year contract immediately after the Cubs announced they were parting ways with Maddon. 

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers, Maddon's deal will likely be for three years at $4-5 million a season:

Maddon came up as a coach in the Angels system, referencing his three decades there often during the course of his five years in Chicago.

Once the Cubs got rid of Maddon, it was obvious he would have plenty of suitors, as just about any team with a managerial vacancy would be interested in the future Hall of Famer. But instead of going to an up-and-coming team like the Padres or a squad on the cusp of the playoffs like the Phillies, Maddon opted to return to his baseball home.

That means he will most likely not face off against the Cubs over the next couple of seasons, as the Cubs hosted the Angels in 2019 and are not slated to play each other again until 2021 (which will take place in L.A.). Barring the aforementioned World Series meeting, Maddon and the Cubs likely won’t cross paths in Chicago for the next few seasons.

It also means Maddon will get to team up with the best player in the game (Mike Trout) and an exciting young two-way star (Shohei Ohtani) while inheriting a roster that otherwise has some major flaws. The Angels have struggled to build up a roster around Trout over his nine seasons, making the playoffs just once in 2014 and getting bounced from the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals that season.

But the Angels do have some intriguing prospects coming up the system — led by outfielder Jo Adell — and Maddon has experience taking a team and elevating them to contender status immediately. He also carries immediate clout that will help draw free agents to L.A., as he did in Chicago with Jon Lester.

Maddon will be reunited with former Cubs fan favorite Tommy La Stella, who was starring for the Angels earlier this season before a leg injury sent him to the shelf for several months.

In many ways, this is an ideal fit for Maddon, who will get to stay in a big market with a team willing to spend and a roster that at least has some incredible talent from Day 1. It would obviously be a difficult task to try to overtake the juggernaut Houston Astros in the AL West, but he accomplished a similar feat in Chicago when he led the Cubs past the Cardinals in Year 1 (and kept the Cards out of the playoffs for the next three years until their return to October baseball this fall).

The Cubs, meanwhile, have not yet announced a new manager, though David Ross still looms as the favorite to take over Maddon's former gig. Theo Epstein's front office interviewed Mark Loretta, Will Venable, Joe Girardi and Ross earlier this month and also planned to talk to Joe Espada and Gabe Kapler this week.

Epstein said the Cubs are "full speed ahead" to hire a new manager, so expect them to move quickly to finalize Maddon's heir.