Cubs

Uncertain of future, Piniella says he'll stay retired

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Uncertain of future, Piniella says he'll stay retired

Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010
4:18 PM
By Patrick MooneyCSNChicago.comLAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. Lou Piniella has lost weight by going on 25-mile bicycle trips with his buddies. He looks tanned, relaxed and at peace with his decisions.

Last we saw Piniella, tears were streaming down his face. He swore hed never again put on a uniform, one that will be framed and hung up in his office at his new home in Tampa, Fla.

Almost four months after Piniella walked out of the dreary interview room cramped inside Wrigley Field, he insists that hes not going to manage again. You may not believe that because we are conditioned to think that sports figures are addicted to the action and will eventually change their minds.

But Piniella an emotional man known for his honesty didnt leave much open to interpretation on Tuesday at the winter meetings.

Im retired as a manager, Piniella said. I really am. Ive said that when I went to Chicago that it would be my last job and it will be. Thats it. I did it long enough and its time to do other things.

Commissioner Bud Selig invited Piniella, Joe Torre, Cito Gaston and Bobby Cox who left because of a family medical situation to the Swan and Dolphin resort for a news conference to honor an elite class of outgoing managers. Together they won more than 7,500 games and eight World Series titles.

While theres been much speculation about Piniella eventually taking a consultant role with the New York Yankees, there is nothing imminent.

Well see what the future brings, Piniella said. Theres no need to make any decision. I havent really given it any thought. Right now Im just enjoying what Im doing, which is nothing.

The 67-year-old is trying to decompress after a difficult year both personally and professionally. He said he traveled to Mesa, Ariz., for spring training knowing that it would be his final season.

This summer, Piniella was impacted deeply by the deaths of his uncle and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, a man he considered a father figure.

Piniella left the Cubs on Aug. 22 to take care of his ailing mother, and he felt another loss when Ron Santo died last week. Selig, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and WGN Radios Pat Hughes will give eulogies on Friday at Santos funeral. After the service, a procession will lead to Wrigley Field.

We've lost a true friend, and Chicago has lost an icon, Piniella said. I was a manager getting beat this past summer and I had to get him up when we would talk. My life was enriched from knowing Ron Santo for the past four years.

For Piniella, this was a chance to again enjoy the national spotlight, and be remembered for more than his final weeks managing a Cubs team that at the time looked headed toward 100 losses.

Everybody in this room loves talking to Lou. I know I do, Gaston said. Heres a man (who) gave his heart and soul to this game.

Piniella has spent almost his entire adult life packing up for spring training and leaving home just after the Super Bowl. It may feel weird when he doesnt have to. But hes not second-guessing himself.

Im going to have to go somewhere Feb. 14, Piniella said. Im not exactly sure (where) but Im going to have to pack up a suitcase and go somewhere. Yeah, Ill miss it. You always miss it (the competition), the people in the game. But, look, its time. There comes a time in everybodys life when you need to do other things and thats where Im at.

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

Cubs still trying to break through on extension talks with current players

Cubs still trying to break through on extension talks with current players

SAN DIEGO — While the rest of the baseball world is occupying their time on free agent signings and trades, the Cubs have been waiting for their number to be called.

They've been trying to nail down extensions with key players that are only a couple years away from free agency, though nothing appears imminent on that front. 

Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are all free agents after the 2021 season, leaving the Cubs two years to work out a deal or trade the player before losing them for nothing but a compensation pick. Willson Contreras is a free agent after 2022. Theo Epstein's front office reached a four-year, $55.5 million deal with Kyle Hendricks in spring training, extending his team control through the 2023 season.

The Cubs won't comment specifically on the current extension talks, but they'd ideally hope to wrap anything before spring training this year, so the players can focus solely on baseball by then.

"We always take the position of not commenting on extensions, but are we having those discussions? Yes," Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. "People focus so much on trades and free agent signings at these meetings, but all the agents are under the same roofs, also, and allows us to have those kinds of discussions. I'm not gonna specify who or what, but yeah certainly those conversations are ongoing."

Bryant has long been thought of as the toughest of the group to lock up long-term given that his agent, Scott Boras, typically advises clients to hit the open market and maximize their value. Boras reiterated Tuesday afternoon at the Winter Meetings he and Bryant are still open to extension talks with the Cubs.

Baez and Rizzo loom as the two most likely to extend their Wrigley Field stays, with the two emerging as the faces of the franchise in their own ways.

As the Cubs try to navigate an offseason where they're "serving two masters" (trying to compete in 2020-21 while also enhancing the long-term future of the franchise), a potential extension would check both boxes in a major way. If Hoyer and Theo Epstein knew Baez would be locking down shortstop and the middle of the lineup for the next six seasons, they could breathe a bit easier thinking about the big picture and long-term health of the franchise. 

At the same time, they can't operate as if anything is a certainty. Bryant could decide he likes the Cubs' offer and make Chicago his forever baseball home. Baez could conclude the opposite. 

It's what makes this particular offseason so tricky for the Cubs.

"We have to be able to have parallel tracks in our mind," Hoyer said. "We have to be able to do multiple things at once. It doesn't make it more difficult. We have a lot of really good players. We've had them for a long time. When we talk to these players about contracts, there's no player that we talk to that we haven't had a conversation with at some point before about a contract. 

"We've talked about these players for five years in some way, shape or form. When we sit down with these players, we're not covering a ton of new ground. We've already been over a lot of it. I think we're able to have parallel tracks."

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.