The Cubs are Talking to Mark Buehrle? Say What?

Posted by Michael Castillo | 11/16/2011 01:50:00 AM |

Mark Buehrle? Mark Freaking Buehrle? Well, according to Fox Sports baseball reporter Jon Morosi, the Cubs are one of the teams hot on the trail for the former White Sox lefty, even meeting with his agent on Tuesday.

As recently as spring training, Mark Buehrle spoke publicly about the possibility of retirement after the 2011 season. That’s not going to happen. In fact, it’s possible that the free-agent left-hander will sign a contract that rivals the four-year, $56 million deal he signed in 2007.

Buehrle is young enough to justifiably ask for a deal of that length. He will be 33 at the start of next season — the same age as Cliff Lee, who has four years left on his contract with the Phillies.

Buehrle isn’t all that much older than fellow free-agent C.J. Wilson, who turns 31 this week, and both lefties are in high demand. Chicago Cubs officials met with Buehrle’s agent on Tuesday — the second time they had done so.
Link: Jon Morosi (FOX Sports)

If I'm Theo Epstein, I'd have trouble giving Buehrle something in the $14 million range. Buehrle has won 13 games in each of the last three seasons, and 10 games in 11 straight, making at least 30 starts in each of those 11 seasons. But, I'm not sure that equates to an exact value at $14 million.

His ERA in 2011 was his best since 2005, but that doesn't change the fact that he's led the league in hits allowed four times since then, including a pretty sour WHIP of 1.403 in 2010.

There's already one pitcher on the Cubs roster that fits into that similar mold, and his name is Ryan Dempster. Is Buehrle a better pitcher than Dempster? Sure. But he's still not worth $14 million. So if Epstein is going to spend that much money on a pitcher, why not make a serious run at Wilson?

Plus, while Buehrle in a Cubs jersey would make skin crawl on the South Side, isn't the sight of him in blue pinstripes a little nauseating?

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Among the half dozen or so candidates for the Cubs job, the two best names according to CSN's Patrick Mooney are Dale Sveum and Mike Maddux. Why? Well he equates the job search to the hiring of Terry Francona in Boston and Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay. Both guys were far from upper echelon of managers at the time, but were seen as rising commodities in the managerial world. And both worked. Quite well, too.

Sure, Francona had prior experience in Philadelphia, but Mooney still makes good points that the coach turned manager phenomenon tends to succeed if it's done correctly. [See Ron Roenicke].

Here's a bit of what Mooney had to say about Sveum:

After lasting 12 seasons in the big leagues, Sveum managed Pittsburgh’s Double-A affiliate from 2001-03. He then became Francona’s third-base coach and felt the heat from Boston fans and media for his aggressive decisions to wave in runners.
Sveum understands big-city pressures and has been described as someone who’s embraced statistical analysis. It says something about his value and personality that he worked for three different managers in Milwaukee (as third-base, bench and hitting coach).
Sveum was the interim manager when the Brewers made a playoff run in 2008. He will turn 48 later this month, an age where he can grow into the job, an idea Epstein has suggested for the next leader.
As much as the Cubs have tried to copy the Red Sox model, chairman Tom Ricketts also studied the Brewers before hiring Epstein, the way they’ve been able to produce homegrown impact players and have success in a small market.
CSN Chicago: Patrick Mooney

Wait, what? Ricketts is thinking of modeling after the Brewers? [See Ron Roenicke]. Now, that brings us to  former Brewers coach Mike Maddux, who like my friend Ron Roenicke, has had a history as a highly respected pitching coach over the last several seasons.

There’s a growing acceptance of pitching coaches becoming managers. Hoyer developed a good relationship with Bud Black in San Diego. John Farrell – Boston’s former pitching coach – got good reviews during his first season in Toronto and could have been Francona’s logical replacement if he weren’t under contract.
Epstein views keeping pitchers healthy – and having them perform at a higher level – as the next frontier. Those questions have vexed the entire industry. The Cubs are staring at a huge void in their rotation, and pitching figures to be their biggest need this winter.
In Texas, Maddux and Nolan Ryan pushed their pitching staff. They weren’t afraid to increase workloads and change the culture in a ballpark that was known for offensive fireworks.

Okay, let's not associate Hoyer with the Bud Black hire, but Mooney makes great points despite not mentioning the successful Roenicke. So Maddux would definitely fit into that mold and as Clapp has mentioned on Twitter in the past, could possibly open the door for brother Greg to join the staff.

My only beef with Mike Maddux? The "increased workloads" mention. That just conjures up raw memories of Dusty Baker and Mike Quade. Then again, I'll trust Theo over Hendry or MacFail or Dallas Green or Bill Veeck.

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The Cubs officially began the hunt for the next manager today, as they gave Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin the first interview. As I mentioned yesterday, the Cubs were granted access to Mackanin, who has been in Philly since 2009.

According to Mackanin himself, the interview kicked off last night with a dinner between him, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. That's where he began to get bombarded by the "Dream Team" front office.

“They put me through the grinder last night and I couldn’t enjoy my dinner,” Mackanin said. “They covered an awful lot of ground in regards to strategy, type of philosophy, things like that.”

Honestly, that's what you like to hear. If the Cubs are going to find the right guy to be at the helm, then they can't leave any stones unturned, and every question possible needs to be asked. Strategy plays a big role here, as evident with the words of Jed Hoyer on Tuesday when he was introduced. The Cubs are going to be built with the goal of manufacturing runs, rather than banking on Ryan Theriot Tyler Colvin to bail the team out with a three-run homer. Mackanin's been tied to a very statistical style of managing, so it serves Epstein and company well to pepper him. 

Now, to play up the feel good vibes, Mackanin is a Chicago native. So, naturally, he tried to win over the media by playing up the Chicago card, and it apparently won over Bruce Levine. Here's how he opened his piece regarding Mackanin's interview, before quoting the interviewee.

Managing the Cubs would be a dream come true for Chicago native Pete Mackanin.
"I grew up in Chicago," Mackanin said Friday. "It would be a thrill to take this Cubs team to the top and be a part of it."

And Muskat...

Mackanin grew up in Chicago, attended Brother Rice High School. He said he had heroes on both sides of town.
“Obviously, now I’m a big Cubs fan,” he said. “It would be really exciting to be part of the Cubs going all the way, to be able to contribute to that and be able to participate in that would be really exciting.”
Link: Carrie Muskat (

There you have it. He's a Cub at heart. Sign him now.

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Cubs to Interview Dale Sveum on Monday

Posted by Michael Castillo | 11/04/2011 04:28:00 PM |

The Cubs will interview Dale Sveum on Monday at Wrigley Field for the daunting task of succeeding Mike Quade. Sveum interviewed with the Red Sox on Wednesday, and has been strongly linked to both clubs.

Sveum may be closer to the Red Sox job, as he previously coached in Boston and was their third base coach when they broke the curse in 2004. Sveum spoke to media after his interview in Boston, sounding very sold on the idea of reuniting with Fenway Park.

"It was the greatest experience I could ever have; we won the World Series in '04," said Sveum, who turns 48 this month. "For being a coach or a staff member or whatever you want to call it, it's the ultimate place you want to be."
Link: ESPN Boston

According to Ken Rosenthal, Sveum is considered the favorite for the Red Sox, but don't forget that Theo Epstein still has a history with Sveum, hiring him as part of Terry Francona's staff for the 2004 season. And you have to think that the Cubs have an advantage of sorts getting the interview after the Red Sox, as they are able to gauge Sveum's interactions with the Boston media, as well as the Chicago media, possibly using it as the basis for some questioning in the interview itself.

Besides his pro-Boston comments, Sveum had some pretty interesting things to say on Wednesday, and even admitted a bit of nervousness regarding his stint as the Brewers skipper. "You never know until you're thrown right into the fire, but then I felt right at home," he said as he addressed the media. With the Brewers, Sveum finished the 2008 season after the sudden firing of Ned Yost, leading (if you call it that given the small sample size) Milwaukee to the playoffs with seven wins in 12 tries as manager, after being promoted from third base coach. Yeah, we heard those same type of comments a year ago with Quade, but Sveum has been highly reputable for a handful of years now since gluing the Brewers back together. Plus,he usually gets his name pronounced correctly, a sign that he's actually thought of. Quade was so off the radar before Lou Piniella stepped down that he was called "Quaid" well into this season from national pundits.

Anyways, it'll be interesting to see how Sveum reacts to the Chicago media, as he won't be able to fawn over past memories, and only get bombarded by Paul Sullivan's asinine questions.

P.S. How is David Kaplan going to feel if there ends up being a-look-a-like running around Chicago in the coming weeks? I mean they kind of look alike, don't they?

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Cubs Granted Interviews with Mike Maddux and Pete Mackanin

Posted by Michael Castillo | 11/03/2011 12:59:00 PM | ,

The first wave of interviews for the Cubs' vacant managerial position are set, as the Cubs have asked for permission to speak to both Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin and Rangers pictching coach Mike Maddux, and have been granted access. 

According to Yahoo!, both Mackanin and Maddux have been cleared to not only interview with the Cubs, but the Red Sox as well. That shouldn't be a suprise as Theo Epstein and Beb Cherington have similar tastes in personnel. For Mackanin, his shot to woo Theo comes on Friday, the first interview in the post-Quade era.

Mackanin has been the Phillies bench coach since 2009, and so both candidates have been on the losing end of the World Series in each of the last three seasons combined. 

As for other names thrown into the ring? According Comcast SportsNet's Patrick Mooney, Epstein says that Tito might actually have a chance. "Francona would be on top of anyone's list, and wouldn't need to be interviewed, but both sides would have to decide it's a fit."

Dale Sveum is also a big target for both the Cubs and Red Sox, but he has yet to be tabbed for an interview from either club.

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The Theo regime is upon us, and it didn't take long for him and his brain trust to take care of the most obvious change in the Cubs offseason, as Theo and company informed Mike Quade that he will not return for 2012.

We all knew it was going to happen. Quade knew, Theo knew, and heck ESPN knew as they included the Cubs job on a poll asking America to vote for the most attractive managerial vacancy earlier this week. Yet, despite the fact that we all knew, you have to give credit to Theo Epstein for handling it the way he did, with tremendous class.

Theo and Hoyer met with Quade for a full day last week, and Theo personally flew down to Florida to inform Quade of the Cubs' decision. That's the absolute definition of class, especially after there had been reports that Quade was out of the loop after the season.

So where to the Cubs go from here? Well the quick answer is not in the direction of Ryne Sandberg. Here's what Epstein said in his press release, all but eliminating the former Cubs great:

The next manager must have leadership and communication skills; he must place an emphasis on preparation and accountability; he must establish high standards and a winning culture; he must have integrity and an open mind; and he must have managerial or coaching experience at the major league level.

As Bruce Levine points out, he has all but one of the qualities, missing the most important one. To add salt to the wounds, the Cardinals have now asked the Phillies to speak to Sandberg, to which the Phillies have granted permission, per Ken Rosenthal.

The early vibe coming out of Wrigley is thatthe Cubs' short list includes Dale Sveum and DeMarlo Hale. Sveum righted the Brewers' ship in 2008 after the firing of Ned Yost, and according to Jon Heyman, is also one of the favorites for the Red Sox position, ironically signaling an Epstein vs. Cherington battle of sorts. That's where Hale comes into play, as he has served as the Red Sox bench since 2006. Heyman also pointed out Mike Maddux, but he's yet to gain managerial experience at the major league level.

The offseason still is only beginning.

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The Cubs finalized their front office on Tuesday, as President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein introduced new General Manager, Jed Hoyer, and Senior VP of Scouting and Development, Jason McLeod. All three had rather interesting things to say, with Hoyer and McLeod continuously emphasizing the need for building the club from the bottom, through the draft and with scouting and development.

The notion of the "Cubs Way" was prevalent in Epstein's presser a week ago, and thankfully is far more intelligent and coherent than the Ricketts' version: "A Way of Life". As McLeod alluded to, the Red Sox teams that they assembled through amateur scouting were remarkable, which proves that a franchise-wide model for scouting talent and addressing development works.

Just in case you missed it, here's the full video of press conference from Wrigley Field, via Comcast SportsNet.

Afterwards, Hoyer joined David Kaplan, David Haugh, Paul Sullivan, and Todd Hollandsworth on Chicago Tribune Live. Here, Hoyer emphasized the need for the "Cubs Way" to be more focused on manufacturing runs, rather than relying on a three-run homer, like the Cubs have notoriously relied on for decades. He also is bombarded by Kaplan's questions on Zambrano and Soriano, and never denies the possibility of the Cubs cutting ties with the high priced duo. Here's the full segment:

Now, other than Sullivan's signature douchey questions, what's not to love about hearing Hoyer talk about his plans? The Cubs are finally in good hands.

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