Ausmus Interviews, McKay Leaves, Lovullo Next for the Cubs?

The Cubs’ skipper search is heating up and at some point next week the front office may be ready to name their new manager

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer reportedly met with the sixth managerial candidate on Friday at Wrigley Field. Epstein and Hoyer spent the day with Brad Ausmus and talked baseball with the former big league catcher. The 44-year old Ausmus’ stock within the Cubs’ organization was reportedly rising before he interviewed with the front office on Friday.

Brad Ausmus joins a list of candidates that includes A.J. Hinch, Manny Acta, Dave Martinez, Rick Renteria and Eric Wedge to have interviewed for the Cubs’ managerial opening. One other candidate is believed to have interviewed for the job as well.

The Cubs are expected to interview Torey Lovullo before moving forward in the process. According to the Sun-Times, Lovullo could sit down with the Cubs’ front office early next week. The Tigers have already interviewed Brad Ausmus and are expected to interview Torey Lovullo as well.

Dave McKay

The Cubs lost one of their coaches on Friday when Dave McKay signed on with the Arizona Diamondbacks. McKay will serve as Kirk Gibson’s first base coach and outfield instructor, the same duties he had with the Cubs under Dale Sveum the last two years.

Dave McKay did an excellent job working with the outfielders, especially Alfonso Soriano, while he was on Sveum’s staff and this is truly a loss for the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs were hoping to retain McKay and based on his comments he wanted to return on the new manager’s staff. McKay could not wait for the Cubs to hire a new manager any longer and risk losing a job on Kirk Gibson’s staff. The D’Backs were willing to wait, but he had to make a decision and he feels it will work out best for both teams.

McKay was looking forward to working with the young outfielders coming through the Cubs system like Junior Lake, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler.

Theo Epstein kept McKay updated on the managerial search and was hoping McKay would stay with the Cubs according to the Sun-Times. McKay would not commit without knowing who the new manager would be moving forward.

With McKay no longer available, it appears only Chris Bosio, Lester Strode and Mike Borzello have a shot at returning … and Bosio being kept on as pitching coach looks to be a lock at this point according to the Sun-Times.

Dave McKay joins a good coaching staff in Arizona. Alan Trammell will return as Kirk Gibson’s bench coach with Glenn Sherlock taking over for Matt Williams as third base coach and Turner Ward replacing Don Baylor as hitting coach. Reports have indicated the Diamondbacks are trying to hire Dave Duncan as their new pitching coach.

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka turned 25 years old on Friday and he could be making his final start in Japan on Saturday. Tanaka figures to be posted and once he is, the bidding will begin. But the new posting system has not been worked out by Major League Baseball and the Nippon Professional League yet. The old agreement has expired and recent talks between the two leagues have slowed due to MLB “wanting to lessen the amount of money going to the player’s team in Japan while the NPB seeks proper recompense for losing its best players” according to Jeff Passan.

The new posting system was expected to be in place by Nov. 1.

The Cubs have reportedly made signing Masahiro Tanaka one of their top priorities of the winter, but there will be a lot of competition in the bidding process, especially from the Yankees, Dodgers and Giants. The Yankees and Dodgers have also made Tanaka one of their top targets of the off-season.

Jeff Passan reported the posting fee for Tanaka could reach $100 million, nearly double of what the Rangers paid to negotiate with Yu Darvish, while some think the posting fee could hit $75 million. Passan reported the total cost for Tanaka could easily top $125 million.

Masahiro Tanaka has not chosen an agent yet and it is unclear as to when he will announce that he has hired an agent. Tanaka could elect to stay in Japan and wait until after the 2015 season to become a free agent, but that is highly unlikely.

Elliot Soto

Cubs’ minor league prospect, Elliot Soto received a 50-game suspension without pay for testing positive for a second time for a drug of abuse. The 24-year old Carpentersville, Illinois native played in 84 games last season for the Smokies and D-Cubs. The Cubs selected Soto in the 15th round of the 2010 draft and the utility infielder is coming off a .219/.303/.281 year in which he hit 10 doubles and two home runs in 84 games.

Elliot Soto has a very good glove and is more than solid in the field but this suspension will not help the Creighton University product. The suspension was announced on Friday and will be served next season.

Free Agent Predictions

Jon Heyman posted the CBS Sports’ staff predictions on where the top free agents in baseball will end up this off-season.

Scott Miller and Matt Snyder think the Cubs are going to hand out big bucks to sign Jacoby Ellsbury and Dayn Perry thinks the Cubs will post the highest bid and will sign Masahiro Tanaka. As for Brian McCann, the consensus is that he will sign with the Texas Rangers. Shin-Soo Choo could either land in Houston or with the Mets.

According to a report from Comcast SportsNet, the Cubs could take a look at Jesse Crain, Edward Mujica, Gavin Floyd, Joba Chamberlin, Eric O’Flaherty, J.P. Howell or Jose Veras to help in the rotation or in the pen “or take a flyer on players coming off injury like outfielder Grady Sizemore.”

Arizona Fall League Fall Stars

Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora were named to the East squad for Saturday’s Fall Stars Game at Surprise Stadium. The MLB Network will carry the game, that can also be seen on MLB.com, with first pitch scheduled for 7:00pm CDT.

Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler are in the starting lineup. Bryant will play third and hit third while Soler will play right field and hit seventh.

The CCO will post a special Talkin’ Cubs Prospects and a recap of the game.

News and Notes

Major League Baseball will begin testing the proposed replay system next week in the Arizona Fall League. This will be the first step toward implementing the new system for the 2014 season. The tests will be conducted at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale.

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