After a dramatic collapse over the final two weeks of the season, the Cubs and manager Joe Maddon announced Sunday that the skipper would not return in 2020. Maddon’s contract expires after Sunday’s finale.
Chicago must now select a new skipper at a critical juncture. Most of its stars will become free agents in the next couple of years, meaning there is urgency for the new hire to return to the postseason right away.
The role will not be easy, then, and will require someone capable of handling scrutiny during down stretches.
MORE: Where will Joe Maddon manage in 2020? Here are six possibilities
Here are some of the main candidates the Cubs could consider as they prepare for a new era:
Experienced Cubs managerial candidates
The benefit of this group, of course, is the time they’ve already spent leading playoff contenders. Rather than making first-timer mistakes, in theory they can use the errors they’ve made in the past to carve a smooth path through the 2020 season. Plus, a veteran-heavy clubhouse would presumably respect them right away.
Most recently the manager of the Yankees, Girardi is probably the top candidate among the known commodities. He led New York for 10 seasons and won a World Series in 2009. He has a .554 career winning percentage. And while he left the Big Apple amid a wave of in-game management criticism, which culminated in a 2018 ALDS replay review flub, he’s still generally regarded as a wise, tested tactician.
Girardi has spent the past few years as a TV pundit, keeping himself in the public eye. He’s openly discussed a desire to return to the dugout.
His experience with the late-2000s Yankees, and the pressure of that moment around the club, make him a high-quality fit for the Cubs. With several job openings around the league, though, it’s possible he takes a position elsewhere.
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Scioscia headed the Angels for 19 years, leaving the franchise after the 2018 campaign with 1,650 wins and a World Series title under his belt. At 60, he’s six years older than Girardi and carries a reputation of being old-school in an era that worships analytically driven decisions. But he’s also one of the most successful managers this century and is extremely respected within the game.
The Cubs, then, could look to Scioscia in a medium-term caretaker role before reassessing things when Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and others enter free agency.
Geren is one of the few managers in the Billy Beane era not to win with the A’s. Oakland went 334-376 under his stewardship, and it made the postseason the year before and year after he was on the job. As an assistant, however, Geren has earned acclaim for his recent work in New York and Los Angeles with the Mets and Dodgers. He’s currently LA’s bench coach. The 58-year-old is considered to be a blend of old- and new-school styles, able to work under the guidance of a hands-on front office while equipped to call on-the-fly shots from the dugout.
Based on rumors surrounding him and other openings, it appears Geren is positioned to get a second chance at managing from somewhere this offseason. He might not be the first choice in Chicago, but he’s nonetheless a solid candidate with a deep resume.
Other rumored names here: Bruce Bochy
First-time managerial candidates
If the Cubs truly want a fresh start, perhaps they’ll hire (or promote) someone who has never been an MLB manager. These candidates are likely to command lower salaries than their more experienced counterparts and, in theory, bring fresh ideas to the table.
Another advantage to these candidates is the possibility of finding someone who can stick with the club for five or more years and become a long-term fixture. Such managers are becoming less common, it seems, and their decline in number may make them more valuable. Having a steady face of an organization provides inherent stability and culture.
Loretta is already the Cubs’ bench coach, and he once played in president Theo Epstein’s organization in Boston. Because of those factors, he’s an early frontrunner to replace Maddon despite never managing at any pro level. Before becoming Chicago’s bench coach this year, he served as special assistant in the Padres’ baseball operations department. He’s also a candidate, then, for the Padres’ vacancy.
The Giants will have Meulens’ attention first after Bruce Bochy’s retirement, but if the longtime San Francisco assistant is not picked by the team to take over there, he’ll likely be a major player in high-profile hiring searches. A three-time World Series winner from the dugout, Meulens has interviewed with the Reds and the Yankees in the past. Expect the Cubs to have him on their radar should he have an avenue out of the Bay Area.
Christenson is an under-the-radar candidate who has worked his way through Oakland’s minor league system as a manager and is now the bench coach for a playoff-bound A’s team. A former big league player, Christenson possesses plenty of MLB clubhouse experience. Learning how to be a player-first manager from Bob Melvin has perhaps accelerated his development, and it wouldn’t be surprising for the Cubs to be one of several teams to give him a ring this offseason.
Other rumored names here: David Ross