The Field, Frontrunners, Francona and Free Agency

Could Mike Maddux have company at the top of the leaderboard? According to multiple reports Sandy Alomar, Jr. was very impressive and made an impression on the Cubs’ front office during his interview.

After Alomar finished meeting with the Cubs, Jed Hoyer indicated the first round of interviews could be complete. Hoyer left the door open for another possible candidate or two but indicated the process that Theo Epstein described as being in the sixth inning on Thursday probably moved into the seventh on Friday … who is singing the stretch?

Reportedly Alomar was at ease during his time with the media and even said if talking with Carlos Zambrano did not work, he would try a stun gun. Alomar talked about the importance of statistical analysis but stressed he is not running a fantasy team.

The next round will likely consist of more conversations with the candidates, both over the phone and in person, and will likely take place over the next week while Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are in Milwaukee for the GM Meetings that start on Monday. The Cubs have not put a timetable on announcing their new manager … some think the announcement could come as early as next Friday.

During an interview on XM Radio on Thursday night, Jason McLeod said the Cubs’ brass would discuss the four candidates at length over the weekend and decide the next step in the process.

Once the Cubs have a skipper, will they be active in free agency? Here’s the rest of the update …

Free Agency, the 40-Man Roster and Trade Targets
During their conference call with season ticket holders on Thursday, Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein indicated the Cubs “will be very active participants in the free-agent process.” Epstein explained that means the Cubs will be “very diligent in scouring the landscape, talking with agents and consistently monitoring the supply-and-demand dynamic at every position.”

Epstein finished that part of the conversation by saying, “I’m sure we will sign a free agent of two before it’s all said and done.”

According to a tweet from Jordan Bernfield, the Cubs had a lengthy meeting on Thursday about the 40-man roster and which players they need to protect from the Rule 5 Draft. The Cubs’ front office has also discussed free agents and trade targets.

Terry Francona
The former Red Sox skipper interviewed with the Cardinals earlier in the week and some think he could get the job to replace Tony LaRussa.

According to reports on Thursday night, Terry Francona “deep down” would like to manage the Cubs and is letting Theo Epstein handle the process with the other candidates.

For as much as it appears Mike Maddux and Sandy Alomar, Jr. could be the favorites to land the Cubs job, it is too early at this point to count out Team Epstein hiring Terry Francona. Hoyer admitted that Epstein and Francona have had conversations.

News and Notes
According to a report from Comcast SportsNet, Theo Epstein and Carlos Zambrano have spoken and plan to meet face to face in the near future.

On improving the Cubs defense, Theo Epstein said the Cubs are “looking for complete players” and they “know there is a lot of room for improvement defensively as well as offensively.”

According to Jason McLeod (XM Radio), each of the managerial candidates went through the same process and was also taken to the same place for dinner the night before the interview at Wrigley Field. McLeod stressed the importance of not showing any favoritism to any of the candidates.

Well, there is the update … and I’m sticking to it.

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Quote of the Day

"If you don't build your dream someone will hire you to help build theirs." - Tony A. Gaskins Jr.
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  • Brp921

    I vote for Sandy Alomar Jr.

    • Joey U

      I like the fact he is bi-lingual both he and or Maddux would bea good choice…..Sonds like Sveum is headed to Beantown….

  • Tony_Hall

    If Maddux and Alomar are the 2 finalists, then we will have a very good manager soon enough.  My criteria for a manager is more matched by Alomar, but there are some strong ties to the Maddux family.  This isn’t going to be an easy choice, but one that will answer itself, if they keep going through their process.

    • Brp921

      I wouldn’t be terribly disappointed if Maddux got the job and I like the fact that it could possibly  help bring his brother onto his staff. I just like the idea of having a guy like Alomar in charge. I agree it won’t be an easy decision and I’m glad I don’t have to make the call. 

  • Tony_Hall

    They reviewed the 40 man roster…wow, that had to be hard for them to look at, and realize what they have to work with to build next years roster.  I’ve said it before, at least 20 of the 40 will not be on the 40 man roster by Opening Day, either through not resigning, waiving players or trading them away.  I can actually see more like 16/17 left.  

    • J Daniel

      Probably reviewed it while drinking beer to ease the pain.  Just kidding.  

      • Tony_Hall

        They have kept 1 beer vendor on staff all during the Hot Stove Season, just to help them with this 1st year.

  • Tony_Hall

    Here is the quote from the article on Sandy Alomar Jr’s interview from the Tribune, that leads me to believe that Francona will NOT be the manager.

    “Certainly there are conversations that have gone on between Theo and Tito,” Hoyer said. “They’ve had a great relationship for a long time. I’d let Theo expand on those conversations. He’s the one who has had them. He’s the one who had the GM-manager relationship with him for a long time.”

    Theo has stated, how important the hiring process for hiring a manager is, for the relationship between the GM and the Manager.  Jed by stating “He’s the one who had the GM-manager relationship with him for a long time.”  shows that he has bought into Theo’s thinking, and wants his own GM-manager relationship, that can only come from hiring someone other than Francona.

    Here’s the article again, that Neil had above.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/ct-spt-1112-sandy-alomar-cubs-chicago–20111112,0,7823673.story

  • J Daniel

    The old way of looking at it would be . . . we have a chance as Fielder and Pujols are leaving.  These guys are looking for COMPLETE players.  They will be active but I don’t believe it will be with the big name guys.  They need assets, and a lot of them.  

    • BosephHeyden

      You know, this does bring up a good point.  The Pirates got on a good run, but fell flat late last year.  The Brewers are going to lose half of their run support.  The Cardinals are going to lose the majority of their offense (though, granted, they usually win by pitching).    And the Reds are far too inconsistent to get on anything even remotely similar to a steady playoff run.  The NL Central is wide open. 

      And even though we are “officially” rebuilding, it should be obvious that rebuilding and winning are not exclusive from each other.  Keep in mind, a better manager last year probably nets us between 10-15 more wins than we actually got, which, at worst, makes us a .500 team and third in the Central (games lost by bad bullpen decisions, keeping starters (read:  Dempster) in an inning later than they should have, and starting Soriano instead of a LaHair or Snyder when they came up hot only to see Soriano go 0-4 in a one or two run game while the player sat in his place would go 1-1 in a pinch hit spot, or just those games where Campana was used as a pinch hitter in the seventh instead of a pinch runner in the ninth for Ramirez).

      I’m all for blowing this team to bits and starting from scratch, but I’m also operating under the expectation that a 40-50 win season is just inexcusable.

      • Tony_Hall

        40-50 wins…you would have to work really hard to have that bad of a season.  I have no doubt that we can be competitive next year, with just a sound off-season, that we should have.  But remember, this team needs more talent, is going to need to replace the production ARam, did give, after we were eliminated, from someone.  We can’t expect that if Soriano is still patroling LF, that he will have as much production as he even had last year.  So offense is going to have to come from somewhere.

        This team will be able to compete if 85 wins can win the division, but if Pujols stays in St. Louis they will be projected for 90+ wins, something this team won’t be able to compete with in 2012.

      • daverj

        Not sure how you can say a better manager probably nets of 10-15 more wins.  There have been studies on a manager’s effect on games, and as I recall, over the course of the season, the difference between the best managers and worst managers is expected to be less than 5 wins.

        If you put any manager on the 2011 Cubs, the team would not have won 10-15 more games.

        • paulcatanese

          That study on managers did not take into account Mike Quade, who in my opinion was the worst manager in any of the years I have been following the Cubs, and anyone including the batboy could have reached that plateau of 10-15 more wins. Just by throwing all the names in the air and the first 8 that hit the ground would have been the lineup for the day.

          Quades knowledge of pitching could not even be put on a scale of 1-10 as there is not a 0 in that one. Theo was very kind to Quade in letting him go,as that should have taken place on the plane that Theo was on coming to Chicago.

          I rarely have dis-agreed with you, but on this one, and Quade, well if he got thrown out every game in the first inning we would have done better for the year.

          • daverj

            I agree with you that Quade was the worst manager I have ever seen.  I’m not defending him at all.  His decision making was horrible.  I just think the overall talent of the players on the team was well below average for a major league team.

            10 more wins would have put the Cubs at .500.  15 more wins would have put the Cubs 10 games over .500.  Do you think that talent on the 2011 Cubs was worthy of an over .500 season?

          • paulcatanese

            One never knows the answer to that . You make a good point about the overall talent on the team.

            But Quade never wavered in his approach with his lineups, never experimented with the younger players that were always either put in the wrong spot in the lineup and certainly put in positions to fail.

            No manager can put the same players day in and out  in the same position in the order when not producing for weeks not days and not lose mor games than he should.

            His knowledge of opposing hitters bordered on insanity, as he continualy pitched to people that could hurt.

            His constant desire to put veterans in the lineup to reach their personal goals was very evident at the end of the season. The Cubs were completely out of it by June and many changes with players should have been utilized and weren’t.

            I know you were not defending Quade at all, as few people could. I am just saying that he in my mind that he alone was responsible for at least 10-15 of those losse’s.

            I agree the talent was not there, but mixed with the worst manager baseball has had in a long time 10-15 wins is not a stretch. A million things could have been done to pick up the extra games and was not.

        • BosephHeyden

          I outlined exactly why they win 10-15 more games.  A better manager doesn’t keep Ryan Dempster in games where he has clearly lost most of his control in the sixth inning in for that seventh inning where the opposing team breaks the game open.  A better manager doesn’t keep throwing a closer with clear need for work on his fundamentals in consecutive games that lead to him blowing saves and, in turn, games.  A better manager doesn’t bench a guy brought up from minors because he’s hitting the cover off the ball in Triple A in favor of a converted second baseman whose better days are clearly behind him and is in the middle of a hitless slump. 

          Those are all very real reasons that games were lost this season.  There are no studies that need to be done.  Those were all choices made by Mike Quade, and they were made when better options were not only available, but everyone expected them to be made before the game and, when they weren’t, the only person surprised at the outcome was, in fact, Mike Quade.

          • daverj

            I think that is a simple way of looking at it.  Taking Demp out earlier taxes the bullpen further (and may create more losses in other games that the Cubs won).  Moving Marmol out of the closers roles and moving another guy like Marshall in creates a hole elsewhere (and again could mean losses in games we otherwise won).  Guys tearing the cover off the ball at AAA often get exposed with consistent major league at-bats.  Again, I agree with your assessment of Quade’s moves … he made bad ones all the time.  I just think there’s no way that the 2011 Cubs win 81-86 games no matter who is managing.  Not enough talent.

            Though as Paul accurately points out … we’ll never know what would have happened.

  • Anthony

    Sandy Jr. would be a great choice, Catchers see the game from a vantage point unlike any other position, are involved in each pitch, have to be very observant of every detail to gain an in-game edge, and over the playing years, develop that skill moreso than others.

    He also is a baseball rat since being a little kid while his Dad played.

    As far as FA’s, hope they stay away from the Pujols/Fielder thing and look for additional pitching, and see more of what they have in guys like Vitters, DJ, Colvin, and LaHair at the ML level. I feel Jackson will be pretty darn good.

    The “interesting players” at the lower levels comment is pretty accurate. I feel that term was used from a positive standpoint, especially the older guys, or newer guys that came from college this past Draft. Players like DeVoss, Taiwan, Klafczynski, and Hoilman are all solid athletes as well as baseball players. Hoilman is more than a lumbering slugger and has defensive skills. A full season for the football guys DeVoss and Easterling will polish them up more defensively than offensively, and if Klafczynski can start Spring training with the hot bat he finished 2011 with, could be moved along quickly since his defense, arm, and fundamentals are game ready.

    From the younger guys, I like Geiger, rangy, and when he matures physically could be a nice corner guy and plays 3B pretty solidly. PC Chen is also a name to watch from the younger group.

    Hope they skip on Francona, more to stay away from the “Boston revisited” appearance as well a letting our GM build his own relationship with his hand-picked Manager.

    For 2012, play some younger guys, see what they can do, let the kids in the Farm who haven’t had a full season in MILB have one, see what they can do, have a solid Draft, and then evaluate the system entirely.

    • John_CC

      I would still like to see Fielder signed to a 5 year deal. My outlook on the Cubs has changed from expecting to wait 3-4 years to see a competitive team to being more like 2, 3 max. 

      The fact remains that the Cubs are in dire need of power, and left-handed power.

  • John_CC

    I’m jumping on the Sandy Alomar Jr. bandwagon.  Can’t say exactly why, but I really like him. 

    • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

      I think Sandy is the guy.  He reminds me of a Guillen type, that can make good decisions and win or lose take the heat.  I hope he gets it…

      • paulcatanese

        Not only that in comparison, I would think Sandy knows how to use the dictionary and has more than one adjective to describe the game.

  • John_CC

    Great, we have to watch Papelbon more now that he’s in the NL. Not that I fear his so much, I just really hate his mound antics, his arrogance, that annoying yell…

    And we thought the Madson deal was going to set the bar high, ppfff. 

    I wonder if Theo would try to get a good pull in return for Marmol?

  • daverj

    Epstein’s comment of “I’m sure we will sign a free agent of two before it’s all said and done.” says a lot.  I’ve suspected the Cubs won’t be particularly active in free agency this year other than picking up some left over bargain free agents towards the end of free agency.  There won’t be drastic changes this year.  It’s going to be slow transformation over the next few years, but we finally have ownership that is thinking long term.  This is all a good thing.

    • Tony_Hall

      Or it means that the young guys will actually get some opportunities.

  • carmelo

    Notice that Lake is starting in RF in today’s AFL game—-always easier for a infielder to move to the outfield, not the other way around. For our best defense, put as many shortstops as you can on the field at the same time, their the best athletes on the team.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Thanks for posting about Lake in right, beat me to it.

      Junior Lake is starting in RF today for Mesa
      Solar Sox … DJ LeMahieu at 3B and Josh Vitters is DH

    • Tom U

      This will be Lake’s first career start in the outfield.

      • carmelo

        One of the best arms in ALL of baseball—he may be a natural for RF.  Speed, power, plus, plus arm—these are the types of players we need to compete every year for play-off spots.

      • Tony_Hall

        Maybe they were reading the CCO yesterday :)

    • paulcatanese

      “I knew that”. :)

  • paulcatanese

    According to reports, Francona is letting Epstein handle the process with the other candidates? Is that an indication that he will eventualy get the job? I hope not, as that would make the theme that Theo brought with him seem ridiculous.

    Why interview anyone if he were to hire Francona? In order to not show any favortism to the others Theo should have told Francona he is not in the picture or hire him immediatly and have no interviews at all.

     For this reason I do not think Francona is being considered at all as I trust Theo to this point, but if somehow, magicaly Francona pops up as the manager, I would have doubts.

    Papilbon would have been a great addition, but it would have been over the top as far as bringing Boston to Chicago, and thats as good a reason as any to pass on him.

    • Tony_Hall

      For Jed Hoyer to be successful as the GM, and to have any power within this organization (which I think he will be and does have), then the new manager will not be Francona, it will be one of the guys he has interviewed.  If it were Francona, it would negate Jed Hoyer usefullness completely.

      • paulcatanese

        Thank you Tony, I forgot that there are other guys on the Theo team and it clouded what I was thinking.

    • cubtex

      I would not have given Papelbon 50 mil for 4 years. I have a feeling the Phils will regret those last 2 years on that contract.

      • paulcatanese

        Ok, I’ll buy into that, as I dont think the Cubs are in a position to do it anyway. Kind of making that statement because Papelbon so far is the best one out there and would have been one that could be counted on with his record.

        The other thing was that it would have looked like Theo was just raking the Red Sox for their talent and may have not gone over too well.

        But you are right, too much money and too long a contract and too many that the Cubs have  done in the past.

        One other little thing here, dont be surprised if Theo moves Castro over, especia;;y the way he talks about defense being a strong part of his plan.
        Most of the time I am kidding about that, but now I just dont know.
        I think a lot of unfamiliar moves may be on the horizon.

        • cubtex

          Relief pitchers don’t have a long shelf life for the most part….unless your name is Mariano Rivera. That is why I was saying to trade Marmol last year. Now his market value is not nearly as high. I wouldn’t mind taking a one year flyer on Joe Nathan. I think he would be a good low cost risk.

      • Ripsnorter1

        I wonder if the Phils might regret all four years.

        I think the ChiSox regret the Adam Dudd deal.

  • BosephHeyden

    Okay, this has kind of bugged me for a while, so I’ll just throw it out there.  When Epstein told Sandberg he wasn’t under consideration, he told him he wanted someone that had winning, major league coaching experience.  So…where does he see that with Sandy Alomar Jr?  I’m not saying Alomar is a bad choice, it’s just that the Cleveland Indians never hit .500 in the time Alomar has been coaching with them.

    Something about this bugs me a bit.

    • Tony_Hall

      I am as die hard of a Sandberg fan as it gets, and I have been able to understand this so much easier, when it dawned on me, that he wasn’t on Theo’s list for a manager when he was in Boston, why would he be if he went anywhere else?  

      • J Daniel

        Exactly.  I mentioned this earlier.   Each GM has their short list in case something happens to their guy.  I am sure he was not on Hoyer’s list either.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Junior Lake is now a perfect 18-for-18 on the
    basepaths after a steal of 2nd. Only Eric Young, Jr. (20) had more AFL SB since
    2000.

    • carmelo

      2011 between Daytona, Tenn., and AFL,  Lake is playing in 141st game today, and stole his 56th base. 

  • gocubs

    I dont see Alomar as a legitimate candidate.  I see this as more of a courtesy interview.  Maddux seems to have the types of ideas and mind they are looking for.  Alomar seems like more of an old school manager who would work better with a team like the White Sox with more veteran players.  I just dont see what the appeal would be of him here. 

    • paulcatanese

      Just that he was a catcher and a lot has been said about them making the best managers.

      • cubtex

        I think Alomar would be a great choice. I think he could be great for Starlin Castro and use his brother Roberto as an example on how hard he needs to play and focus on every pitch. I heard Alomar said that he would Castro as his shortstop for the next 10 years!!! Just kidding :)

        • gocubs

          I just dont see Alomar being all that interested in advanced statistical analysis or being all that great of a strategic mind.  I see Maddux as a guy who could really get into the direction Theo and Jed are going in and be able to really comprehend some of these more advanced and accurate ways of looking at the game.  I think Alomar would do things in a more old school way.      

          • Anthony

            Advanced statistical analysis is an additional method used in fielding the right mix of baseball players that profile certain positions and traditional hitting order. Once the game starts, it can be assumed that by all methods employed, including advanced stats, tendencies and possible outcomes, that management has put a lineup version on the field that best fits their model.

            Now the actual game has its own set of protocal, and decisions are based more on situation than Sabermetrics, etc. It becomes regular baseball once again, which is hit ball, catch ball, throw ball, etc. This is where “old school” takes over. Sandy Jr. has experienced this on losing teams as well as WS games, and no manager uses a laptop in-game to make a decision on the spot.

            In other words, your fancy stat models pick players, and are NO GUARANTEE of success, just another TOOL in the bag.

            It ain’ that difficult to know one of your LHH struggles against a LHP with a sweeping hook, or a Pull RHH is LOST against a RHP wicked slider. Baseball Managers manage “personalities” in a large group, that is their main job. You and I can fill out a lineup card and know when to make a double-switch.

            Proof? Just look back to the slide-rule days and you will find baseball Managers who won 90 plus games not knowing how to add 1 + 1

            If you rely on MoneyBall so much, you will miss out on players who are also baseball players and are also valuable.

            IT IS ONLY ANOTHER TOOL!

            Sandy Jr. would be a great Manager because he grew up with the game, was talented enough to play the game for a long time, and has seen it from a vantage point seldom do.

          • cubtex

            well said Anthony!

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Cubs in AFL (11/12): DJ LeMahieu (3B): 2-for-5; Josh Vitters
    (DH): 0-for-3, Sac, RBI; Junior Lake (RF): 1-for-4, R, SB (18); Jeff Beliveau:
    3R, 3H, 0BB, 3K, 1IP (L);  Andrew Cashner:  0R, 0H, 0BB, 0K, 1IP (16
    pitches, 11 strikes, 3 groundball outs)

  • Tony_Hall

    Brad Snyder has a new home – Houston – to a minor league contract.

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/11/minor-moves-fox-torres.html

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Tony, thanks for posting. Did not realize you had …

      • Tony_Hall

        No problem.  I always liked Snyder (along with alot of others on here) and would love to see him get an opportunity.  To do that he needed to go to a team like the Astros.

        I wish him well, unless he makes the Astros and plays against us.

        • cubtex

          career minor leaguer hanging on for the love of the game. can’t fault him for not wanting to give it up.

  • Tony_Hall

    Chase Headley may be a better offensive player than I thought.

    Road stats of 330/399/465 are pretty good out side of his pitchers home park.

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/11/minor-moves-fox-torres.html

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Astros signed former Cubs OF Brad Snyder to a minor league contract that includes invite to Spring Training http://tinyurl.com/6qeznkl

  • Anthony

    Snyder was a dominant two-way player in college, is and has always been very talented, and is a great example of the tough journey to the SHOW. He not being a regular MLB player is not a talent issue, but a system issue.

    What is a system issue?

    A system issue is a constantly revolving door of talent that changes every season with the infusion of new players, new philosophies, basically a numbers game, and the best two ways to overcome the system is total dominance or an original high dollar investment.

    As you all know, the high dollar investment will get many, many opps to fail. The low dollar investment guys get a short sheet, and somewhere in between are players identified as LIMBO guys. Good enough to hold just in case, but always having the brass(GM’s) looking for better.

    Basically, the best 750 players in the world are NOT on MLB 25 man rosters at any given time. There are so many variables to there(rosters) collective makeup, and talent is not the reason, Money, or spent money is.

    They call it “Rate of Return”

    • Tom U

      Here are the outfielders Snyder has had to compete with since 2007, his first year at Triple-A

      Jason Michaels
      Grady Sizemore
      Trot Nixon
      Ben Francisco
      Franklin Gutierrez
      Shin-Soo Choo
      Matt LaPorta
      Alfonso Soriano
      Marlon Byrd
      Koske Fukudome
      Tyler Colvin
      Reed Johnson

      A hard group to try and crack a line-up and get some consistent playing time.

      • Aaron

        aside from Michaels and Nixon (being difficult to steal time from), I agree with that list, but I know what you were saying, and it’s absolutely correct.

        The problem is, as much as I liked Snyder…it was more of 2 years ago when I thought he needed the chance. I don’t think at this point, being 30 years old, having diminished speed (which was another one of his assets), he will be much more than a .250 and under hitter with anywhere between 15-20 hr, 50-60 RBI in full-time duty with high K totals. 

        My feeling at the time….and still is, is that Snyder should’ve been given CF outright over signing someone like Byrd…or even Johnson (as soon as last year actually). But that was under Hendry’s regime, and he ALWAYS favored signing veteran bats via free agency versus letting the young guys try to earn the job. 

        He even waited too long with LaHair. My feeling on LaHair was that I could not fathom why he would sign someone like Pena for $10 million coming off such a dreadful season and signing him to a 1 year deal nonetheless. All that did was bury LaHair in the minors yet another year, making him yet another year older, and setting the Cubs back development-wise

  • Jason Douglas

    Give me Maddox or Francona! 
    But I like the process they have taken so far, and it seems like all the candidates would do fine.  More thorough than just signing the interim guy for 2 years.

    I am very hopeful for the future.  I don’t need a World Series championship…I just want a consistent playoff team.  I want the Cubs to be what the Cardinals, or the Braves, have been.

    • Brp921

      Jason, did you express yourself correctly? I would also like to do what the Braves and Cardinals have done, which is winning consistently, but they have also won a World Series championship. The Cardinals have won multible World Series championships. I need the Cubs to win a World Series championship. You have been commenting on this site, so I have to believe you also want a World Series championship. LOL

  • bpot92
  • cornerlots baseball

    If Terry Francona goes to the Cubs, I would like to see Jose Oquendo be the new Cardinal skipper. Jose knows the Cardinals well and has worked well with La Russa. it would be a good transition.