Cubs

Manager questions are multiple-choice; Wedge out

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Manager questions are multiple-choice; Wedge out

Friday, Oct. 15, 2010
6:25 PM

By Patrick MooneyCSNChicago.com

Within a span of 31 days, the White Sox and Boston Red Sox introduced new managers. One had never done the job before, but was a name on the South Side. The other was an outsider in New England, and fired the last time he had a chance to run a major-league team.

This was late 2003 and less than 23 months later those two men won World Series titles for two franchises that combined had gone 174 years without a championship.

It would be impossible to clone Ozzie Guillen, and the White Sox organizational structure might not work elsewhere. And Terry Francona could have just as easily been remembered as the guy who managed Michael Jordan and the Double-A Birmingham Barons.

But you never know where the next great manager might be coming from or going. The White Sox once fired a young Tony La Russa. The New York Daily News went with a Clueless Joe back page when Joe Torre took over the Yankees. Before Bill Belichick became a football genius, he had to be fired by the Cleveland Browns.

The Cubs are carefully heading toward a decision on their manager for Year 103 since their last World Series championship. Mike Quade a baseball lifer who has managed only 37 games in the majors would represent a philosophical shift from Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella and whats been described as the celebrity manager.

I've hired two really good managers that did very, very well here the first couple years, general manager Jim Hendry said at the beginning of the search process. And then for a lot of the reasons not blaming them things don't always go (up). It looks like it's going that way and then we got derailed a couple times.

Hiring Ryne Sandberg could help sell tickets and energize the fan base the same way Guillen did and if you needed a reminder of that the Cubs sent out invoices on Friday to their season-ticket holders.

There are five pricing tiers for 13 different sections at Wrigley Field and it all depends on the date andor opponent. Youll find a range that runs from 8 to 112 per ticket, plus a 12 percent amusement tax, and the overall average price will essentially remain flat in 2011.

Then again, Francona wasnt a huge name in Boston and this summer the Red Sox reached their 600th consecutive sellout at Fenway Park. Like Francona who was dismissed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2000 maybe Bob Melvin and Eric Wedge only need another opportunity.

Wedge, who met with Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts earlier this week, will be the next manager of the Seattle Mariners according to an SI.com report late Friday afternoon. The former Cleveland Indians manager was linked to several openings. He wont be coming to Wrigleyville.

Look at the four managers still analyzing matchups and not hunting or fishing or golfing and youll see that part of this postseason is about second chances. Or that they dont have much in common except for the fact that their teams are in the league championship series that begin this weekend.

The Indians fired Charlie Manuel during the middle of his third season in Cleveland. Manuel, a former hitting coach, has won at least 85 games in each of his six years with the Phillies and is chasing his third consecutive National League pennant. Manuel, 66, has West Virginia roots and was shaped by the years he spent playing in Japan, yet wound up helping give the city of Philadelphia its first professional championship since 1983.

Fifty-five-year-old Bruce Bochy was born into a military family in France, where his father was stationed, and eventually developed into a major-league catcher. Those skills inform the way Bochy handles a pitching staff thats one of the best in the game. He lasted 12 seasons with the small-market San Diego Padres, and it took until his fourth year in San Francisco before the Giants made the playoffs.

Ron Washington, 58, had no experience managing in the majors until he took over the Texas Rangers in 2007. In spring training he survived what looked like a devastating report he tested positive for cocaine last year. Before Fridays Game 1, he was reflecting on that failed drug test and his relationship with general manager Jon Daniels.

He didn't judge me (and) I could never say enough about that support, Washington said Thursday in Texas. When youre a manager, a lot of times you get hired to get fired. And whenever that time comes and I hope it's a long time in the future I hope that I can always have him as a friend.

In this business, thats the probability facing the next Cubs manager hired to be fired.

Joe Girardi, who turned 46 on Thursday, could be the perfect fit. Born in Peoria and educated at Northwestern University, the ex-Cubs catcher might want to come home with his family or stay in New York and perhaps build another Yankees dynasty. Fired by the Florida Marlins in 2006, he might appreciate the stable organization he already knows.

Hendry has said that the only instructions Ricketts gave him were this: Get the best man for the Cubs. Get the best man for the future. For that role, there is no central casting. And we might not know who that person truly is for at least three more years.

Two MLB moves that changed the landscape of Kris Bryant's trade market

Two MLB moves that changed the landscape of Kris Bryant's trade market

Two reported transactions Tuesday may not have drawn much attention from Cubs fans, but both directly impact the North Siders.

First, The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya reported the Angels are trading third baseman Zack Cozart to the Giants for cash and a player to be named later. Soon thereafter, free agent shortstop Didi Gregorius agreed to a one-year deal with the Phillies, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported.

From a Cubs perspective, the Angels' and Phillies' moves impact a potential Kris Bryant trade market. According to Ardaya, the Giants are picking up the remaining $12.67 million on Cozart’s deal. This clears payroll space for Los Angeles to make a run at a superstar free agent, like third basemen Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson.

The Phillies inquired with the Cubs regarding a potential Bryant trade, according to multiple reports. However, Bryant’s unresolved grievance case is a holdup in any trade talks, should the Cubs entertain offers. If he wins, he'll become a free agent next winter. If he loses, he'll remain under team control through 2021.

Gregorius will slot into shortstop for Philadelphia, while incumbent Jean Segura will move to second base, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury. The Phillies are less likely to pursue Bryant — should the Cubs shop him — than they were entering Tuesday. Things can change, but they have less of an infield need as they did on Monday.

On the other hand, the Angels and new manager Joe Maddon suddenly could be a candidate to pursue Bryant. Acquiring him would bring less certainty than Rendon or Donaldson, as Bryant is only under contract for two seasons more, max. Furthermore, acquiring Bryant will cost the Angels prospect capital, while adding Rendon and Donaldson will 'only' entail paying them handsomely as free agents.

In short, Philadelphia is less likely to pursue Bryant than they were entering Tuesday; the possibility of the Angels doing so is stronger than it was entering the day. The Angels haven't been directly connected to Bryant at this point, but that now could change.

Cubs still waiting for their number to be called in baseball's offseason equation

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AP

Cubs still waiting for their number to be called in baseball's offseason equation

SAN DIEGO — Jed Hoyer busted out the fishing and football metaphors to explain how the Winter Meetings have gone for his front office.

The Cubs have so far not made a move of any magnitude on baseball's biggest offseason stage, but that's not really a surprise. Their Opening Day payroll is already projected for about $6 million over the luxury tax threshold and so far, there hasn't been much movement in the trade market. 

Hoyer called the first couple days in San Diego productive in terms of having conversations and laying groundwork. But when asked if he thought the Cubs would make a substantial move before the end of the Winter Meetings, Hoyer wasn't optimistic.

"Right now, we don't have anything that's in the red zone," the Cubs GM said. "That'd be my instinct. But at the same time, there's a bunch of days left. More than any other time of year, things happen quickly at the Winter Meetings. That's the one great thing about the Winter Meetings, where an idea can go from the germination to deal very quickly because we're in the same place and people have a certain level of motivation."

The Cubs leaving San Diego without a big trade or adding impact players to the 2020 roster is certainly frustrating for fans who are still trying to wrap their heads around how this team has gone from a potential dynasty to one that is now likely breaking up the core of players.

It's frustrating to the Cubs, too. As Hoyer put it, "the percentage of times that you cast into the water and get a fish is really rare," while preaching patience on the team's offseason.

In a lot of ways, the winter is out of the Cubs' hands. Because they're not players at the top of the free agent market while they attempt to shed payroll, they have to wait for teams to decide to turn to the trade market to fill their roster needs. When Josh Donaldson and Anthony Rendon are still out there and require only money — and not a haul of prospects or big-league players — to acquire, it's understandable teams would want to wait that out before resorting to meeting the Cubs' asking price for Kris Bryant.

"The people that are making that decision, they're trying to figure out that calculus," Hoyer said. "In some cases, they want to make a trade because that's easier or they like that player a lot and in some situations, they'd rather just spend the money. That's always the calculus you have this time of year — the teams that are in those markets are making that decision."

So it goes for the Cubs, who are spending another Winter Meetings preaching patience and another offseason operating more at the fringe of the big-league roster than at the top of it. 

That's not to say the Cubs are still figuring out their plan of attack for the offseason. They're aligned in their focus this winter — somewhere in the middle of rebuilding and going all-in for the immediate future. More like retooling on the fly. 

Theo Epstein's front office isn't planning on punting on 2020, even with a rookie manager, a brand new coaching staff and more budgetary restraints. Not when the division is still within reach, as no other team has emerged as a powerhouse within the NL Central.

The Cubs also aren't going to mortgage the long-term future for the next couple of years. Ideally, they would be able to make moves to keep the team competitive during the window of contention in 2020 and 2021 while also ensuring the roster has a better long-term future than is currently constituted.

"The makings of a very, very good team is currently under control on our roster, with a chance to win the division. You do that and you have a chance to have a great October," Epstein said Monday. "That's not to be taken lightly. At the same time, we can't just pretend that we can keep putting off making some important decisions for the future if there's an opportunity to strike that can help ensure a better future, we have to do that. We also have to be very mindful of what's on our roster right now, how we can complement it and how we can put ourselves in the best possible position for 2020. Both things are important."

The Cubs have been having a lot of conversations with various relievers and role players to round out the roster, similar to the moves they've made so far in free agency (right-handed pitcher Dan Winkler), trade (right-handed pitcher Jharel Cotton) and the waiver wire (left-handed pitcher CD Pelham).

"The end of our roster did struggle last year in certain places and we have to do a better job of fortifying that," Hoyer said. "And so those conversations are really important. They're not the names you read in trade rumors and stuff like that, but they are really important and we are having a ton of those conversations."