Right after Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with Tampa Bay, the Chicago Cubs were mentioned as a possible landing spot for one of baseball’s best managers.
Flush with prospects and ready to make a splash in free agency, the Cubs already had a manager in Rick Renteria. But they just couldn’t resist the lure of Maddon’s sudden availability.
Looking for a turnaround after five consecutive losing seasons, the Cubs announced Friday that they had hired Maddon to replace Renteria after just one year on the job. The move pairs the respected Maddon with a promising roster and a franchise with far more resources than he ever enjoyed with the small-market Rays.
Renteria was fired after leading Chicago to a 73-89 record in his only season as a major league manager. It was a seven-win improvement from 2013, the last of Dale Sveum’s two years in charge, but not close to reaching the playoffs or putting the Cubs in position to win their first World Series title since 1908.
“Maddon – who may be as well-suited as anyone in the industry to manage the challenges that lie ahead of us – had become a free agent,” Cubs President Theo Epstein said in a statement.
“We saw it as a unique opportunity and faced a clear dilemma: be loyal to Rick or be loyal to the organization. In this business of trying to win a world championship for the first time in 107 years, the organization has priority over any one individual. We decided to pursue Joe.”
With Renteria in the dugout, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Starlin Castro each had a rebound season, and young sluggers Javier Baez and Jorge Soler were among a group of prospects who showed considerable promise in their first major league action.
Now it’s up to Maddon to help that core group of young players to continue to improve, while paving the way for another wave of heralded prospects that includes third baseman Kris Bryant and shortstop Addison Russell.
Clearing the bases
Second baseman Be n Zobrist’s $7.5 million option for 2015 has been exercised by the Tampa Bay Rays. … The Brewers exercised right-hander Yovani Gallardo’s $13 million option for next year and their half of third baseman Aramis Ramirez’s $14 million option. … Free-agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval said he wants to play the rest of his career for the San Francisco Giants.
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