With the World Series set to end tonight, unless Mother Nature decides to wreak havoc and delay tonight’s game, all eyes will turn to the Chicago Cubs and the developing situation with former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon who resigned last Friday. According to the Chicago Suntimes, the situation with Maddon and the Cubs should be resolved by the end of the day Friday, one way or the other.
If Buster Olney, Jon Heyman and basically every other baseball insider is right and the Cubs do, in fact, hire Maddon to manage their ball club in 2015, all bets are off.
Having watched the Cubs ascension this last season, Theo Epstein and his plan to rebuild the organization is ahead of schedule, and he plans on adding impact talent this off season to finish what he feels is the final steps to getting a contender on the North Side. This is not a change of plans, the plan was always to build the farm system and then to add impact free agents to fill the voids their farm system was unable to meet. This is simply a reaching the next step sooner than most expected. His farm system rebuild reached its climax much sooner than even Epstein expected.
In recent interviews, we have leaned that is likely to be two starting pitchers, including one sure fire “Ace” who everyone believes to be Jon Lester.
But IF the Cubs do hire Maddon, there could be a lot more changes made, to ensure that the Cubs organization is doing everything possible to fulfill the prophesy of Epstein and Anthony Rizzo who said the goal for 2015 is to win the National League Central division.
The plans that might change with the well rumored hiring of Maddon might be the organizational plans with internal talent as well as who they target in free agency, outside of the pitching talent mentioned by Epstein. Maddon will not come to Chicago with nothing but the promise of talent in the minor league system. That would just be the icing on the cake to make his decision all the easier. He will want the best Major League ready talent the Cubs have, which includes Kris Bryant. Maddon will be coming to the Cubs with a “Win Now” mindset which Epstein put in place a few weeks ago.
Presently, the talk has been that super prospect Bryant would only spend “the vast majority” of the 2015 season in the majors. That likely means missing a small percentage of the season to avoid super two status and gaining those precious seventh year rights. However, with the hiring of Maddon, he might strongly request that Bryant starts the year with the big league club. If the Cubs are hiring the manager they feel is one of the final pieces to the championship contending team, why not bring him up to start the year? Hiring Maddon, reassigning or firing Rick Renteria proves that Tom Ricketts is not just in things for the money. Not if he is willing to eat the money owed to Renteria the next two years, and pay whatever Maddon wants.
If Bryant does start the year with the Cubs, that could also change the plans of the veteran talent Epstein and Jed Hoyer target in free agency.
For the most part, most people assume the Cubs will target a veteran left fielder, but that could change if Bryant starts the year with the Cubs, or even if they do hold true to the idea of keeping him in the minors for a brief period to gain whatever rights they want.
The Cubs might target a free agent third baseman. If they do, the likely target would be San Francisco Giants third sacker Pablo Sandoval. He fits the young player mold the team would want to add to a core of players that will be around for a while. This would also help Cub fans be more accepting of a move of Bryant to left field as has been talked about since he was drafted.
This would block Addison Russell [who some have imagined moving to third base] unless a trade of either Javier Baez or Starlin Castro were in the mix. That would be the downside of signing Sandoval, so if the Cubs go this route, they might consider signing a guy to a 1-2 year contract like Aramis Ramirez who I believe is likely to have his $14 Million option declined by the Milwaukee Brewers. Of course, the Cubs could always stick with a platoon of Luis Valbuena and Mile Olt at third. Like I said, All bets are off.
However, let me continue with my original thought. Adding Sandoval to a lineup which already boasts Rizzo, Castro, Jorge Soler, the potential that Baez possesses as well as potentially Bryant, and you have a power house lineup which would strike fear into most pitching staffs around baseball. That would be a division winning, World Series contending lineup. If the Cubs also add Russell Martin [which has been bantered about] then all bets [again] are off.
Allow me to dream a bit. If these two signings take place, imagine a line up that looks like this:
Arismendy Alcantata – Rizzo – Bryant – Soler – Sandoval – Martin – Baez – Castro – pitcher.
I know, I am dreaming. But this is World Series Dreaming after all. Add to that a rotation of Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks leading the charge, you have a dominating looking team. Of course, on paper this looks good, but we all know things do not get played on paper.
First though, they need to hire Maddon, then follow up by adding the two pitchers and a veteran bat or two to make things real.
Like I said in the beginning, if the Cubs do hire Maddon, everything you thought you knew goes out the window. Everything you thought you knew, you do not know. If the Cubs hire Maddon, then all bets are off.