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Ramirez in, Sandberg out as Cubs plan for 2011

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Ramirez in, Sandberg out as Cubs plan for 2011

Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010
Updated 7:39 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

In your mind, it will be impossible to divorce Ryne Sandberg and the Cubs. His retired No. 23 flies at Wrigley Field. Fans still wear his jersey. A generation of prospects loved playing for him.

But after four years managing in the minors, preparing for a job he ultimately didnt get, Sandberg has left the organization and is free to explore opportunities elsewhere. Cubs general manager Jim Hendry confirmed Wednesday that the Hall of Famer decided not to return to Triple-A Iowa next season.

I dont think that was ever in his plans to be in the minor leagues after this year, Hendry said on a teleconference. Hell always be welcome here. He knows that for the future. If he chooses he wants to come to spring training, it would be great.

A coaching job on a major-league staff would be the logical next step in Sandbergs career, but Hendry thought it would be unfair for Mike Quade to have to deal with the shadows of a franchise icon in his own dugout.

Hell always be a beloved Cub and hopefully well hook up in the capacity that he feels appropriate in the near future, Hendry said. Well treat him with the respect that he deserves. If another club wanted to pursue him, we certainly would do nothing to ever stand in his way.

As Day 2 of their organizational meetings unfolded in Mesa, Ariz., the Cubs finalized their staff, making official the hire of Pat Listach as bench coach and promoting Dave Keller from minor-league hitting instructor to major-league assistant.

These are some of the first dominos falling as the Cubs prepare for next season:

Hendry has not sat down yet with chairman Tom Ricketts to discuss the final payroll number for 2011. But the Cubs have already budgeted 14.6 million for Aramis Ramirez. The third baseman, as well as his agent, Paul Kinzer, gave several indications that the player option will be exercised. The front office is just waiting on the paperwork.

It was just kind of a general understanding, Hendry said. We never even gave it a thought. There was never a discussion from his camp that he was considering not coming back.

Without knowing how much the Cubs will have to spend this offseason, or what the free-agent market will look like, its difficult to set priorities or project what sort of other offers might be out there for Kerry Wood. But its obvious that the Cubs could use a veteran reliever, and Wood still maintains strong connections to Chicago.

Everyone knows I have a wonderful relationship with Kerry and that will be a life-lasting one, Hendry said, but to get into specifics now before weve ever (looked) into what direction were going to would be quite foolish.

All these decisions are related, especially if the Cubs have the flexibility to sign only one high-impact player. Tyler Colvin is 25, left-handed and athletic. He needs to be in the lineup every day. Exactly where depends on if the Cubs are accounting for Adam Dunns 40 homers next season, or invest in a cheaper option with more defensive range.

Everybody was kind of anxious (at the end of last year with Colvin): Are we going to give him a shot to play first base? Quade said. But hes an excellent outfielder, making progress with the bat and hes going to play somewhere. (The front office) will put the roster together and well see.

Outfielder Brett Jackson another first-round pick by scouting director Tim Wilken withdrew from the Arizona Fall League with an infection in his leg, which is said to be different from the heel injury that limited his playing time during last months Pan-Am Games qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico.

The Cubs are optimistic that Jackson along with Team USA teammate Chris Archer could be contributors on the major-league level sometime in 2011.

Ricketts has stressed player development, which should empower scouts and minor-league staffers. The baseball operations department welcomed the news that the Cubs will likely remain based in Arizona at a gleaming new complex with initial starting costs around 100 million.

As Hendry said after Proposition 420 passed by a huge margin late Tuesday night, Nobody from our end (ever) wanted to leave.

In a statement released Wednesday, Ricketts thanked voters for a show of tremendous support in a particularly difficult economy and indicated that the Cubs will work with the city of Mesa to finalize an agreement and begin the design and construction of the new facilities and the Wrigleyville West retail center.

The Cubs would have been isolated training in Naples, Fla., wasting time on long bus rides and alienating a core group of fans.

We dont know if Ricketts would have really moved the team and ended an almost continuous presence in Arizona since 1952. But as Sandberg discovered, there is only so much room for sentiment right now within this organization.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

The day after Kris Bryant suggested that first-time fatherhood and the dramatic reality of world events have changed how he looks at his future with the Cubs, general manager Jed Hoyer outlined why it might be all but moot.

Setting aside the fact that the Cubs aren’t focusing on contract extensions with anyone at this time of health and economic turmoil, the volatility and unpredictability of a raging COVID-19 pandemic in this country and its economic fallout have thrown even mid-range and long-term roster plans into chaos.

“This is without question the most difficult time we’ve ever had as far as projecting those things,” Hoyer said. “All season in projecting this year, you weren’t sure how many games we were going to get in. Projecting next season obviously has challenges, and who knows where the country’s going to be and the economy’s going to be.”

Bryant, a three-time All-Star and former MVP, is eligible for free agency after next season. He and the club have not engaged in extension talks for three years. And those gained little traction while it has looked increasingly likely since then that Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, would eventually take his star client to market — making Bryant a widely circulated name in trade talks all winter.

MORE: Scott Boras: Why Kris Bryant's free agency won't be impacted by economic crisis

The Cubs instead focused last winter on talks with All-Star shortstop Javy Báez, making “good” or little progress depending on which side you talked to on a given day — until the pandemic shut down everything in March.

Báez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are both also eligible for free agency after next season, with All-Star catcher Willson Contreras right behind them a year later.

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None has a multiyear contract, and exactly what the Cubs are willing to do about that even if MLB pulls off its 60-game plan this year is hard for even the team’s front office executives to know without knowing how hard the pandemic will continue to hammer America’s health and financial well-being into the winter and next year.

Even with a vaccine and treatments by then, what will job markets look like? The economy at large? The economy of sports? Will anyone want to gather with 40,000 others in a stadium to watch a game anytime soon?

And even if anyone could answer all those questions, who can be sure how the domino effect will impact salary markets for athletes?

“There’s no doubt that forecasting going forward is now much more challenging from a financial standpoint,” Hoyer said. “But that’s league-wide. Anyone that says they have a feel for where the nation’s economy and where the pandemic is come next April is lying.”

The Cubs front office already was in a tenuous place financially, its payroll budget stretched past its limit and a threat to exceed MLB’s luxury tax threshold for a second consecutive season.

And after a quick playoff exit in 2018 followed by the disappointment of missing the playoffs in 2019, every player on the roster was in play for a possible trade over the winter — and even more so at this season’s trade deadline without a strong start to the season.

Now what?

For starters, forget about dumping short-term assets or big contracts for anything of value from somebody’s farm system. Even if baseball can get to this year’s Aug. 31 trade deadline with a league intact and playing, nobody is predicting more than small level trades at that point — certainly not anything close to a blockbuster.

After that, it may not get any clearer for the sport in general, much less the Cubs with their roster and contract dilemmas.

“We have a lot of conversations about it internally, both within the baseball side and then with the business side as well,” Hoyer said. “But it’s going to take a long time and probably some sort of macro things happening for us to really have a good feel for where we’re going to be in ’21 and beyond.”

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Cubs GM Jed Hoyer: Everyone in MLB has to take COVID-19 'equally' serious

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer: Everyone in MLB has to take COVID-19 'equally' serious

Veteran umpire Joe West made waves Tuesday downplaying the severity of COVID-19 in an interview with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. 

“I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus," West said. "I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths.”

As far as the Cubs are concerned, those comments don’t represent how to treat the virus. In fact, they’ve gone out of their way to ensure everyone treats it with equal severity.

“That’s one of the things we've really tried internally to instill in our players and our coaches,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday, “[that] everyone here has to take it equally [serious].”

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Hoyer noted like the world, MLB isn’t immune to people having different viewpoints on the virus — those who show concern and those who don’t. This echoes comments made by manager David Ross earlier on Tuesday, and Hoyer said those he’s talked to with the Cubs don’t feel the same way as West.

The Cubs had an up close and personal look at pitching coach Tommy Hottovy’s battle with COVID-19 during baseball’s shutdown. It took the 38-year-old former big leaguer 30 harrowing days to test negative, and in the past week many Cubs have said watching him go through that hit home. 

“When you get a 38-year-old guy in wonderful health and he talks about his challenges with it,” Hoyer said, “I think that it takes away some of those different viewpoints.”

To ensure everyone stays safe and puts the league in the best position to complete a season, MLB needs strict adherence to its protocols.

“I think that's one of our goals and one of the things that we feel is vital is that we have to make sure everyone views this the same way, because we can't have a subset of people within our group that don't view it with the same severity,” Hoyer said.

“That’s not gonna work. We're not gonna be successful."

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