Cubs

Looking for edges in October, Cubs sign Emilio Bonifacio

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Looking for edges in October, Cubs sign Emilio Bonifacio

SAN FRANCISCO – Looking for any sort of edge in a pennant race, the Cubs signed Emilio Bonifacio to a minor-league deal, hoping the utility guy will add another dimension to their team.

The Bonifacio deal follows the signing of Quintin Berry, a pinch-running specialist with 351 stolen bases during his minor-league career. Both players will go through Triple-A Iowa before potential September call-ups. 

“We’ll see how it all plays out,” manager Joe Maddon said before Tuesday night’s showdown against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. “When you have the expanded rosters, you can be really specific with what you’re looking for.”

[MORE: The Cubs are taking the nation by storm on latest SI cover]

The White Sox released Bonifacio earlier this month. In the middle of a disappointing season on the South Side, Bonifacio didn’t cause havoc or carve out a super-utility role, hitting .167 in 78 at-bats and stealing only one base in five attempts.

But the Cubs appreciated Bonifacio’s energy and ability to switch-hit and play all over the field last year. The Cubs packaged Bonifacio and reliever James Russell in a deadline trade with the Atlanta Braves, acquiring catching prospect Victor Caratini.

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Maddon always wanted his Tampa Bay Rays to be aggressive and last year the Cubs certainly noticed how the Kansas City Royals ran all the way to a Game 7 loss to the Giants in the World Series. 

“It’s something that I had the privilege of having when I managed the Rays,” Maddon said. “You can see it more recently with the Royals last year, what they were able to do in those particular moments. Speed plays.”

Willson Contreras commissions heart-warming painting commemorating his relationship with Joe Maddon

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USA Today

Willson Contreras commissions heart-warming painting commemorating his relationship with Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon’s time with the Cubs may be over, but the memories made in his five years on the North Side will live on in Chicago sports lore forever. No matter how frustratingly his tenure may have ended, the outpouring of support and appreciation from management, fans and players alike throughout the process of Maddon’s departure are evidence of that.

“I love him like a dad,” Anthony Rizzo said

“I personally never could have imagined having such a wonderful partner,” Theo Epstein later added, standing beside Maddon as they delivered joint reflections on the end of the era.

Maddon touched the lives of so many within the organization and without in his time with the Cubs, but not many more so than catcher Willson Contreras, who burst onto the scene as one of the best young sluggers in baseball under Maddon’s guidance. Maddon — a catcher himself in his short time as a player — never shied away from criticizing Contreras in times he thought it earned, but it’s clear that the two forged a real bond over the last four years. 

Sunday afternoon, artist Austin Ploch revealed that Contreras reached out to him shortly after the end of the 2019 season to commission this heart-warming piece, commemorating the mutual respect and adoration between mentor and pupil:

The painting is derived from a photo of the two that Contreras posted to his Instagram account after it was officially announced that Maddon would not return as the Cubs manager:

Ploch has commissioned work for Contreras before, but now Willson will have a tangible memento to remember his first manager (along with his 2016 World Series ring). We’re not crying, you’re crying.

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Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Astros bench coach Joe Espada has two days off before Houston hosts Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, but it looks like some of that time will be spent in Chicago.

According to multiple reports, the Cubs will interview Espada a second time for their managerial opening. MLB Network's Jon Heyman reports that the interview is happening on Sunday.

Espada is one of the more sought after managerial candidates this offseason, as he's spent the last six seasons with two of baseball's leading franchises. The 44-year-old has been Astros bench coach since 2018, and prior to that, he spent four seasons with the Yankees — 2014 as a front office assistant, 2015-17 as third base coach.

David Ross was the presumed favorite for the Cubs' opening, when the process got underway. However, by landing a second interview, Espada has clearly given the team something to think about. In fact, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan reported on Thursday the Cubs came away "exceptionally impressed" from Espada's first interview on Monday. 

MLB prefers teams not to make managerial announcements during the World Series. So, it might be a few more weeks before the Cubs announce their decision, unless they do so on Sunday or Monday.

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