Cubs

The shape of the Cubs managerial search

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The shape of the Cubs managerial search

Friday, Oct. 8, 2010
9:45 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Mike Quade dismissed the idea when reporters suggested that this 37-game audition could raise his profile enough to at least become a manager somewhere else.

Where others saw the opportunities ahead an offseason in which roughly one-third of all teams could be looking for a manager Quade thought about his friends potentially losing their jobs. The speculation wasnt abstract. He knew those guys.

Sure enough, the Milwaukee Brewers decided not to exercise their 2011 option on Ken Macha, who remains close with Quade after working together on the Oakland As coaching staff. After essentially living on 30 one-year contracts throughout his career, Quade is used to the uncertainty.

Quade doesnt require a formal interview with Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. Quade wont have to show up in Hendrys office in a suit-and-tie with a resume in hand because the two had meaningful discussions throughout the final six weeks of the season.

Hendry has met with Quade, Eric Wedge, Bob Melvin and Ryne Sandberg. As of Friday afternoon, no candidate had been told that he was eliminated from consideration yet.

As part of his due diligence to find the Cubs manager for 2011, Hendry has spoken with seven or eight other men. Broadcaster Bob Brenly is rumored to be in the mix for the Milwaukee job, while the Atlanta Braves are expected to name Fredi Gonzalez their replacement for Bobby Cox once their postseason run ends.

The New York Yankees are still very much alive in the playoffs, and its unclear just how much mutual interest there would be between Joe Girardi and the Cubs, whether family concerns are strong enough to pull him home. Perhaps Girardis just looking to increase leverage while negotiating his next contract.

Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who is signed through 2012, expects to work for whoever manages the Cubs next season. Larry Rothschild has until Monday to pick up his option for 2011, which would be his 10th season as Cubs pitching coach.

Rothschild wont be locked into his contract if he doesnt connect with the new manager. Other staffers have been told that there could be opportunities to return, depending on whos sitting in the managers office.

That image should become clearer within the next week or two, when chairman Tom Ricketts is expected to meet with the short list of candidates.

Hendry would prefer to have the manager in place by the first week of November for the organizational meetings in Arizona, but isnt committed to any timeframe.

That man will lead what Forbes described as the least-efficient team in baseball with 75 wins 1.96 million per in 2010. Ricketts has indicated that payroll will probably decrease from approximately 145 million, but assured season-ticket holders that baseball operations will maintain the same budget levels overall next year.

My family is committed to winning a World Series and though it may not be entirely evident from this years performance, there are encouraging signs, Ricketts wrote in a letter released Friday, referencing the development of rookies Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin and Andrew Cashner. It is my strong belief that, in the end, it is organizations with strong farm systems that win championships and I am convinced that (we are) making progress.

The rebuilding process will require someone with a strong teaching background and the ability to reach younger players.

Ricketts mentioned Quades 24-13 finish the superb job done by another one of our own. For now, its open to interpretation whether those were the words of a baseball lifers future boss or just a reference for another job outside the organization.

Cubs free agent focus: Will Harris

Cubs free agent focus: Will Harris

With Hot Stove season underway, NBC Sports Chicago is taking a look at some of MLB’s top free agents and how they’d fit with the Cubs.

The Cubs are looking for bullpen help this offseason. Enter Astros free agent right-hander Will Harris.

Harris has quietly been one of the game’s best relievers since 2015. In 309 games (297 innings), the 35-year-old holds a 2.36 ERA and 0.987 WHIP. Over that same period, his ERA ranks third among relievers with at least 250 innings pitched, trailing Zack Britton (1.89) and Aroldis Chapman (2.16).

2019 was one of Harris' finest seasons yet, as he posted a pristine 1.50 ERA and 0.933 WHIP in 68 appearances. Of the 60 innings he pitched last season, 49 2/3 of them came in innings 7-9, an area the Cubs bullpen needs the most help.

Cubs relievers posted a 3.98 ERA last season (No. 8 in MLB), but that number is deceiving. The bullpen was OK in low and medium-leverage spots — as defined by FanGraphs — posting a 3.19 ERA (tied for No. 2 in MLB). But in high leverage spots, they sported a woeful 7.92 ERA (No. 24 in MLB) and a 15.4 percent walk rate (tied for last in MLB).

"It was a real interesting year in the 'pen," Cubs president Theo Epstein said at his end-of-season press conference. "Our inability to pitch in high-leverage situations was a clear problem and was a contributing factor — we had the third-worst record in all of baseball behind just the Tigers and Orioles in combined 1 and 2-run games.

"Our inability to pitch in high-leverage moments kind of haunted us throughout the year, and that’s something that I have to do a better job of finding options for."

Those walks often spelled doom for the Cubs. Fans remember all too well the three-straight free passes Steve Cishek handed out on Sept. 10 against the Padres, the final of which was a walk-off (literally). David Phelps and Cishek combined to walk three-straight Cardinals on Sept. 20, two of whom came around to score. The Cubs lost that game 2-1; there are plenty more similar instances.

Harris, meanwhile, walked 14 batters (6.1 percent walk rate) in 2019 — 15 if you count the one he allowed in 12 postseason appearances. His career walk rate is 6.2 percent.

Four Cubs late-inning relievers are free agent this winter in Cishek, Brandon Kintzler, Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop. Cishek and Kintzler had solid 2019 seasons, while Strop had his worst season as a Cub. Morrow hasn’t pitched since July 2018, but he and the Cubs are working on a minor league deal, according to WSCR’s Bruce Levine. Strop has expressed his desire to return next season.

Harris regressing in 2020 is a concern. Relievers are the most volatile players in baseball, and Harris could see his performance sag in 2020 after pitching an extra month last season. Teams will have to trust his track record and assume a regression isn't forthcoming.

But assuming Cishek, Kintzler, Morrow and Strop all won’t return in 2020, the Cubs have a couple late-inning relief vacancies. Harris is one of the better available options, and he’d help the Cubs cut down on the walks dished out by their bullpen.

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Cubs add reliever Daniel Winkler in another low-risk, high-reward move

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USA TODAY

Cubs add reliever Daniel Winkler in another low-risk, high-reward move

The Cubs have reportedly made another low-risk gamble on a bullpen arm.

According to MLB Insider Robert Murray, the Cubs have reached an agreement with right-hander Daniel Winkler on a one-year deal.

Winkler, an Effingham, Ill. native holds a career 3.68 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 1.176 WHIP and 10.3 K/9 in 117 games (100 1/3 innings). He spent 2015-19 with the Atlanta Braves, undergoing Tommy John surgery in June 2014 and another elbow surgery in April 2017. The Braves dealt him to the San Francisco Giants at the 2019 trade deadline for closer Mark Melancon.

Winkler posted a 4.98 ERA in 27 big league games last season and a 2.93 ERA in 30 minor league games. His best MLB season came with the Braves in 2018, as he made a career-high 69 appearances and posted a 3.43 ERA, striking out 69 batters in 60 1/3 innings.

The Cubs entered the offseason in search of bullpen upgrades following a rough 2019. That search includes finding pitchers who may not have long track records, but qualities demonstrating their ability to make an impact at the big-league level. In this case, Winkler possesses solid spin rates on his cutter, four-seamer and curveball, meaning he induces soft contact and swings and misses.

“We need to keep unearthing pitchers who we acquire for the right reasons, we work well with and have the physical and mental wherewithal to go out and miss a lot of bats,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said at his end-of-season press conference, “which is something we didn’t do a lot of — although we did increasingly in the second half with this pitching group — and find more guys who can go out and pitch in high-leverage spots."

The Cubs were successful in unearthing arms last season, acquiring Rowan Wick and Brad Wieck from the Padres in separate deals. They recently acquired Jharel Cotton from the Oakland A’s in a similar buy low move.

Not every pitcher will be as successful as the Wi(e)cks were last season, but the Cubs must continue making low-risk bullpen moves. At the best, they find a legitimate relief arms; at the worst, they move on from a low-cost investments.

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