With the Cubs playing out the string on a season that is falling closer to PECOTA predictions than anyone would have liked, talk is naturally turning to next year. That includes the fate of Joe Maddon, which was more or less sealed during Theo Epstein’s postmortem press conference last season. Not that a decision had necessarily been made at that point, mind you, just that expectations had been set very clearly.
As Jon Heyman shared with 670 The Score’s Mully & Haugh Monday, there was also a preseason meeting during which Maddon was told changes would be made if things didn’t go well. Seems a little redundant given how obvious the front office has been with its public rhetoric, but it’s an indication that it’s all in keeping with private conversations.
Cubs brass informed Maddon at a meeting before the year that if the team didn’t perform to hopes that there might well be big changes. Presumably that meant not just the manager.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) September 22, 2019
In any case, Heyman drew the same conclusions as the rest of us in saying that Maddon is almost certainly going to be managing elsewhere next season. That led to talk about who will replace him, though Heyman’s take was a little different from the others we’ve seen out there lately.
“At this time it’s speculation, I think Mark Loretta is the most likely candidate to be the Cubs’ manager,” Heyman said. “He did take a job there coaching and everyone seems to respect him. His name is coming up with other teams now.
“Not that that’s the reason, but I do think that he will be a very strong candidate to be the manager.”
Loretta has served as Maddon’s bench coach this season, taking the role after Brandon Hyde — who replaced Dave Martinez — left the Cubs to manage the Orioles. A 15-year MLB veteran, Loretta retired as a player in 2009 and then spent nearly a decade working in the Padres front office, where he would have crossed paths with Jed Hoyer during his stint there as GM.
The Cubs clearly saw something they liked, though Loretta has previously downplayed the notion that he’s serving as Maddon’s understudy. Which, of course he’s going to say that. But Hoyer spoke last year about the desire to hire people who could your job, so it makes sense that they’d have sought Maddon’s successor in bringing a new bench coach aboard.
Loretta would also represent a measure of continuity from Maddon’s leadership while being nothing at all like a carbon copy of the current manager. All that said, this is far from a foregone conclusion.
“I think David Ross or Mark DeRosa would be [candidates], but it’s not clear at this moment that they’re ready or at least in terms of what they want to do that they want to do the job,” Heyman added.
Another name to keep in mind is Will Venable, who was also brought over from the Padres to serve in a front office role and has since moved to Maddon’s staff as a bench coach. I’m personally very fond of Mike Borzello getting a look, though he’s more of a behind the scenes guy. And our Mike Canter has been banging the Brant Brown drum for a while now.
We may also want to consider that it behooves Loretta to have his name publicly attached to a very high-profile gig at a time when spots are opening across the league. One of those just happens to be with his old club, a job to which Maddon has also been connected (by speculation, not actual report).
There are quite a few other names out there, so get ready to hear them all as the season winds down and a managerial search almost certainly ensues.