Mike Trout

Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Barring a Cubs-Angels World Series, the Wrigley Field faithful might not have much of an opportunity to welcome Joe Maddon back to The Friendly Confines.

It didn't take long for Maddon to find a job, as he reportedly agreed this week to join the Los Angeles Angels as their next manager. This was a widely speculated move after the Angels let go of manager Brad Ausmus just one year into a three-year contract immediately after the Cubs announced they were parting ways with Maddon. 

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers, Maddon's deal will likely be for three years at $4-5 million a season:

Maddon came up as a coach in the Angels system, referencing his three decades there often during the course of his five years in Chicago.

Once the Cubs got rid of Maddon, it was obvious he would have plenty of suitors, as just about any team with a managerial vacancy would be interested in the future Hall of Famer. But instead of going to an up-and-coming team like the Padres or a squad on the cusp of the playoffs like the Phillies, Maddon opted to return to his baseball home.

That means he will most likely not face off against the Cubs over the next couple of seasons, as the Cubs hosted the Angels in 2019 and are not slated to play each other again until 2021 (which will take place in L.A.). Barring the aforementioned World Series meeting, Maddon and the Cubs likely won’t cross paths in Chicago for the next few seasons.

It also means Maddon will get to team up with the best player in the game (Mike Trout) and an exciting young two-way star (Shohei Ohtani) while inheriting a roster that otherwise has some major flaws. The Angels have struggled to build up a roster around Trout over his nine seasons, making the playoffs just once in 2014 and getting bounced from the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals that season.

But the Angels do have some intriguing prospects coming up the system — led by outfielder Jo Adell — and Maddon has experience taking a team and elevating them to contender status immediately. He also carries immediate clout that will help draw free agents to L.A., as he did in Chicago with Jon Lester.

Maddon will be reunited with former Cubs fan favorite Tommy La Stella, who was starring for the Angels earlier this season before a leg injury sent him to the shelf for several months.

In many ways, this is an ideal fit for Maddon, who will get to stay in a big market with a team willing to spend and a roster that at least has some incredible talent from Day 1. It would obviously be a difficult task to try to overtake the juggernaut Houston Astros in the AL West, but he accomplished a similar feat in Chicago when he led the Cubs past the Cardinals in Year 1 (and kept the Cards out of the playoffs for the next three years until their return to October baseball this fall).

The Cubs, meanwhile, have not yet announced a new manager, though David Ross still looms as the favorite to take over Maddon's former gig. Theo Epstein's front office interviewed Mark Loretta, Will Venable, Joe Girardi and Ross earlier this month and also planned to talk to Joe Espada and Gabe Kapler this week.

Epstein said the Cubs are "full speed ahead" to hire a new manager, so expect them to move quickly to finalize Maddon's heir.

Former Cub Tommy La Stella is having a special season


Former Cub Tommy La Stella is having a special season

If Tommy La Stella was still playing for the Cubs, he would be tied with Javy Baez for the team lead in homers (11) and would be second in OPS (.998) and third in batting average (.301).

But La Stella is not on the Cubs anymore, as they traded him to Los Angeles over the winter. There, the former pinch hitter extraordinaire is now serving as the leadoff man in front of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in the Angels lineup.

La Stella had 4 hits Wednesday, including his 11th homer of the season. Trout only has 9 dingers to date.

Even more incredible: La Stella has more homers (11) than strikeouts (8) this season. He's the only player in baseball who can make that claim.

That puts the 30-year-old La Stella on track for 41 homers and 94 RBI this season to go along with a .301/.388/.611 slash line. Strangely, he's also only on pace for 8 doubles, as he has just a pair of two-baggers to date.

To say that power is surprising would be an understatement. La Stella already has more homers in L.A. in 2019 than he hit in his entire career prior to this season — 10 HR in 396 games (828 at-bats).

He only hit 9 dingers in four seasons with the Cubs, though he also made just 95 starts in that span while spending most of his time serving as Joe Maddon's main offensive weapon off the bench.

The Cubs have already seen La Stella this season — back in mid-April when the Angels came to town. Fans and former teammates welcomed him back with a video tribute and much of Cubs nation has been following his success all year, including his big game Wednesday:

La Stella became something of a fan favorite with the Cubs, who traded him away for minor-league pitcher Conor Lillis-White in November amid a roster and budget crunch this winter. 

Maddon has enjoyed seeing La Stella pad the stat sheet and even made a joke Wednesday in Cincinnati about why we never saw this kind of power output in Chicago:

La Stella still has one more game at Wrigley this season, as the Angels are set to return to Chicago on June 3 to make up the game that was snowed out back on April 14.

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Wacky Chicago weather may actually simplify things for Cubs

Wacky Chicago weather may actually simplify things for Cubs

Winter is coming...

...and it might not be the worst thing in the world for the Cubs.

After a pair of sun-filled days at Wrigley Field to begin the series with the visiting Angels, Sunday brought frigid temperatures and a lot of precipitation — including snow.

The temperature for Sunday's 1:20 first pitch was projected to be 35 degrees — 23 degrees with windchill. Plus, the snow. That all added up to a quick postponement, as Major League Baseball made the call more than five hours before game time. No makeup date has been announced yet.

It'll represent something more akin to the weather north of The Wall instead of the North Side of Chicago in mid-April. (How fitting on the day of Game of Thrones' long-awaited premiere.)

This means the Cubs won't need a spot start from Tyler Chatwood at all before Jon Lester returns. The 35-year-old veteran tested his hamstring on the field before Friday's game and could be back sometime within the next couple weeks after going on the injured list Tuesday morning.

Chatwood was slated for the start Sunday and due to a couple more off-days in the April schedule, the Cubs wouldn't have a need for a fifth starter again until April 27. 

With Sunday's game rained/snowed/wintered out, the Cubs opted to keep their rotation the same for the series in Miami beginning Monday.

Assuming there are no other changes to the rotation or schedule, the Cubs could — in theory — line their rotation up like this over the next couple weeks:

April 15 - Yu Darvish
April 16 - Jose Quintana
April 17 - Cole Hamels
April 18 - OFF
April 19 - Kyle Hendricks
April 20 - Darvish
April 21 - Quintana
April 22 - OFF
April 23 - Hamels
April 24 - Hendricks
April 25 - Darvish
April 26 - Quintana

That's a four-man rotation where everybody is on regular rest.

By the time April 27 rolls around, it will have been 18 days since Lester injured his hamstring.

With the Cubs opting to keep Chatwood out of the rotation, it gives them a nine-man bullpen for roughly three weeks as they try to improve upon their 5-9 early-season record.

However, as simple as it may make things for Maddon and Co. in April, it could lead to complications down the stretch.

The Angels do not have an opportunity to play a makeup game when they come to Chicago to play the White Sox in early September and they do not share many mutual off-days with the Cubs the rest of the season. Two such options — Aug. 26 and Sept. 23 — would not exactly be ideal choices.

If the Cubs have to fill either of those days with this makeup game, that would ensure they'd be playing a game in 39 of the final 41 days of the season — a schedule that would come close to rivaling their exhausting stretch to end 2018. (Though, it would obviously be a better draw to stay at home for one makeup game instead of having to travel to Washington, D.C. like last year's club had to do in mid-September.)

By the time the game is made up, the Angels also may have a much better lineup. If the game was played Sunday, Mike Trout was already ruled out and the Angels were also without Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton. Four or five months down the line, all three of the players may be back on the field, creating a much a much more formidable lineup.

Who knows how it will all play out and if it will wind up working out in the Cubs' favor or not, but one thing's for certain: No game Sunday means everybody gets to spend their day rewatching Game of Thrones leading up to the premiere.

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