Cubs name Brandon Hyde - not David Ross - new bench coach


Cubs name Brandon Hyde - not David Ross - new bench coach

The Cubs coaching staff is nearly complete and no, David Ross does not currently have a role.

Brandon Hyde — not Grandpa Rossy — will take over as Cubs bench coach in 2018, moving from the first base coaching box to Joe Maddon's right-hand man:

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer confirmed the news on 670 The Score Thursday morning.

The Cubs did not want to lose Hyde to New York and he will take over the bench coach position for the second time in his Chicago tenure (he also served in the same role under Ricky Renteria in 2014).

This is the latest in a major shakeup on the Cubs coaching staff this winter. Five coaches have left Maddon's staff, with two — Davey Martinez and Eric Hinske — getting promotions as the Washington Nationals manager and Los Angeles Angels hitting coach, respectively.

The Cubs finished 2017 and a third straight trip to the NLCS with this coaching staff under Maddon:

Bench coach — Davey Martinez
Hitting coach — John Mallee
Assistant hitting coach — Eric Hinske
Pitching coach — Chris Bosio
First base coach — Brandon Hyde
Third base coach — Gary Jones

That coaching staff now looks completely different, just three weeks later:

Bench coach — Brandon Hyde
Hitting coach — Chili Davis
Assistant hitting coach — Andy Haines
Pitching coach — Jim Hickey
First base coach — TBA
Third base coach — Brian Butterfield

Lester Strode (bullpen coach), Henry Blanco (quality control coach), Chad Noble (bullpen catcher) and Mike Borzello (catching coach) are expected to remain in their roles as well as advanced scouting coordinators Nate Halm and Tommy Hottovy.

Ross is still currently a special assistant in the Cubs front office. It would've been hard to see him move to a demanding coaching role and miss so much time with his young family after an extremely busy first year of retirement.

The promotion of Hyde to a key role on the Cubs coaching staff will help maintain a sense of familiarity for the players amid a wild offseason shakeup. Hyde was already a part of the daily lineup workflow - letting players know who was starting and where they were hitting - and has been around since the early stages of the rebuild. He also served as a bench coach with the Florida Marlins for two years from 2010-11.

How the Daniel Murphy trade may affect the Cubs' chances at signing Bryce Harper

How the Daniel Murphy trade may affect the Cubs' chances at signing Bryce Harper

Earlier this afternoon, the Cubs traded for Nationals' second baseman Daniel Murphy. 

The Nats -- who stood pat at the trade dealine, hoping a healthy roster could propel them on a late-season run -- have officially waved the white flag on their 2018 season. Offloading Murphy and Matt Adams -- who was sent to St. Louis for cash -- was something the team had to do, as both were on expiring contracts and unlikely to return to Washington next year. 

There was a sense around D.C., however, that trading away major pieces mid-season would represent more than just a yearly waiver-wire firesale. There's something to be said about a team that was 52-53 at the trade deadline and refused to be sellers; it's hard to give up on Bryce Harper's possible last year in a Nats uniform. With that said, a month later and the Nats have given up on Bryce Harper's possible last year in a Nats uniform. 

Does this affect how Harper might view free agency? It's hard to tell. Murphy and Adams were major components of the Nationals' offense this year, but neither represented huge financial committments. The Nats could commit to a soft reboot, ala the 2016 Yankees, and approach Harper this winter with a humongus contract to play alongside Max Scherzer, Steven Strasburg, Juan Soto, Anthony Rendon, and Victor Robles for the next decade. 

Imagine, though, that this isn't a soft reboot. Imagine that this was the make-or-break season that everyone in D.C. hyped it up to be, and the Nationals broke. If this team, or the 2012, '14, and '16 teams couldn't break through, what team will? *That's* where it gets interesting for the Cubs, who have long been rumored as a possible Harper destination. He goes way back with Kris Bryant. His dog's name is Wrigley.

His. Dog's. Name. Is. Wrigley.  

The Cubs already have a big ol' contact in right field, but when you have the money the Cubs do, you make it work. 

The next couple days of action from the Nationals will be telling. If they stand pat, it's more than likely this was their '16 Yankees reboot (and they'll try and spin it that way, regardless). But this Nats team had a window, and the Murphy trade today has been the largest indicator yet that said window is shut. 

If that's the case, Harper-to-the-Cubs speculation just had some new life breathed into it. 

Daniel Murphy may be just what the Cubs need

Daniel Murphy may be just what the Cubs need

While the Cubs offense has scuffled over the last month, Theo Epstein's front office went out and added some insurance.

Epstein and Co. acquired Daniel Murphy in a waiver deal with the Washington Nationals Tuesday, providing a boost as the Cubs begin a stretch of 23 games in 23 days.

Joe Maddon has been harping on the Cubs' lackluster offense since the All-Star Break and last week, they seemed to be breaking out with an 8-4 victory over the division-rival Brewers.

The Cubs lineup responded to that win by scoring just 1 run in each of the four games in Pittsburgh.

Murphy should help that as a guy who hardly strikes out (8.3 percent strikeout rate is far and away the best mark on the Cubs — Jason Heyward has an 11.4 strikeout percentage) and has hit .329 over the last three seasons. He also has a career .413/.440/.702 slash line (1.142 OPS) in 28 games (109 plate appearances) at Wrigley Field, including a 7-for-12 stretch earlier this season when he visited the "Friendly Confines" as a member of the Nationals.

The 33-year-old hasn't flashed much power this season, but didn't make his 2018 debut until June 12 after a knee injury kept him out for more than two months.

Murphy gives the Cubs and Maddon plenty of options both in the lineup and in the field. As a left-handed bat that "moves the baseball" with the type of high-contact swing and full-field approach Maddon and hitting coach Chili Davis have preached all season, Murphy figures to slot in somewhere near the top of the lineup, potentially even at leadoff.

Anthony Rizzo was the Cubs' closest thing to a consistent leadoff hitter this season, but he's now back in the middle of the order. Murphy has only started 12 games in his career in the leadoff spot, but he's hit second a bunch (384 career starts) and may have the best profile of any current hitter on the Cubs for that role moving forward.

A lineup of Murphy-Ben Zobrist-Anthony Rizzo-Javy Baez could be in store against right-handed pitchers.

However, Murphy has struggled a bit in his career against left-handed pitchers (.720 OPS) and those splits have been even more pronounced in 2018 (.618 OPS). 

Murphy has never been known for his defensive acumen and has seen another dip in that department this year as he inches toward his mid-30s with a bum knee, but he has experience playing anywhere on the infield (except for shortstop) and has even dabbled in the outfield (60 games).

It's not yet known how the Cubs plan to deploy Murphy in the field, but it would make the most sense if he started at second base against right-handed pitchers, moving Baez over to shortstop or third base in the short-term.

The Cubs still don't know when they'll get Kris Bryant back and when they do some time in September, they could slot Murphy at second, Bryant at third and Baez at short, with Addison Russell and David Bote on the bench and Ben Zobrist in the outfield.

Russell has been hampered by a knuckle/finger/hand issue for the last couple months and is hitting just .216 with a .508 OPS in 27 games since the All-Star Break.

The Cubs have plenty of depth, so won't need to rely on Murphy to play every single day. There will be plenty of opportunities for rest down the stretch for him, Zobrist and anybody else who needs it.

Murphy's presence also gives the Cubs the option of sitting anybody who is struggling (like Russell) and play with the best 8 available.

The Cubs woke up Tuesday morning with a 3-game lead over the Brewers and 3.5-game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central, but that margin will evaporate if the offense can't turn things around.

Murphy's addition should help over the final five-plus weeks of the regular season and if the Cubs do make it into the playoffs, they now have a weapon in their new veteran infield with a career .323 average and 1.020 OPS in 24 postseason games (though Cubs fans need no reminder of Murphy's prowess in October).