Scratch one name off your list of candidates to replace Joe Maddon on the North Side.
Sunday, Carlos Beltrán said that although the Cubs are interested, he won't interview for the team's managerial opening. Beltrán, a nine-time All-Star who played 20 big league seasons, told Newsday's Anthony Rieber that he's only interested in the Mets' opening.
Beltrán's interest in the Mets' vacancy makes sense, as he played seven seasons with the team from 2005-11. The 42-year-old also currently works in the Yankees front office, so leaving for Queens would mean moving his office just across town.
Beltrán was one of the few reported candidates from outside the organization linked to the Cubs' opening. The group also includes Joe Girardi — who completed an eight-hour interview last Wednesday — and Astros bench coach Joe Espada. Houston is still in the postseason, though, meaning Espada has likely not been made available for interview at this point in time.
The Cubs have already interviewed several internal candidates, including bench coach Mark Loretta, first base coach Will Venable and front office assistant/former catcher David Ross. There is no timeline for when they will make their announcement, though.
"We're not gonna drag this out any longer than it needs to be, but we also want to be thorough," Cubs president Theo Epstein said at his end-of-season press conference. "It's difficult. The interview process, you want to make sure you don't end up with the candidate who interviews the best.
"You want to end up with the candidate who's gonna be the best manager and that can be nuanced, so we want to do the best we can with that process. We're certainly not gonna hesitate."
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With Anthony Rendon officially joining the Angels, the Nationals have a vacancy at third base.
Washington has options to replace Rendon; Josh Donaldson is still available in free agency, and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant could potentially be had via trade.
The Nationals have reportedly inquired with the Cubs about Bryant, and while they “love” the 27-year-old, their focus is on Donaldson, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. The Cubs would likely seek center fielder Victor Robles in a deal, a holdup on Washington's end, Heyman said.
From the Cubs perspective, it would make all the sense in the world to ask for Robles. He’s 22 years old, plays excellent defense (22 DRS in 2019, No. 1 in MLB by center fielders) and is only scratching the surface as a big-leaguer. Robles is projected to be a star, but Bryant already is one. If the Nationals want Bryant badly enough, they’ll have to sacrifice talent in a deal.
On the other hand, it’s easy to understand why Washington would be unwilling to trade Robles, who's under team control through 2024. Bryant will hit free agency after 2021, but if he wins his ongoing grievance case, he'll hit the open market after next season.
Nonetheless, if the Nationals do engage in Bryant trade talks, you can bet the Cubs will at least ask for Robles in return. A trade could be worked out without him, but for a Cubs team searching for better center field production, you've got to wonder who could be more enticing than Robles.
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With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.
It didn’t take long for Willson Contreras to introduce himself to Major League Baseball. On the first pitch he saw as a big-leaguer, the Cubs catcher cranked a two-run home run to center field — on Sunday Night Baseball, nonetheless.
That moment was a sign of things to come for Contreras, who has since established himself as one of the best catchers in baseball. The 27-year-old holds a career .267/.350/.470 line with a 117 wRC+ and 67 home runs in four seasons. He’s started back-to-back All-Star Games, the first Cubs catcher to do so since Gabby Hartnett (1937-38).
Contreras offers so much to the Cubs besides his bat. His cannon of an arm and athleticism behind the plate are integral to the Cubs controlling opposing run games. His pitch framing is a work in progress, and admittedly, he could improve in this area by throwing behind runners less, ensuring he gets strikes called.
However, back-picking is part of Contreras’ value. He may lose some strike calls by not sticking a frame, but there've been plenty of occasions where Contreras' arm has provided the Cubs with a spark. His boundless energy is unmeasurable, but its importance to the Cubs — who feed off of it — cannot be overstated.
There are areas where Contreras can improve, and that's a scary thought. But he's already is one of the best backstops in baseball and has earned the starting catcher spot on our Cubs All-Decade Team.
Also considered: Welington Castillo, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Geovany Soto