Chicago Cubs fire Rick Renteria, go after Joe Maddon as manager
CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs fired Rick Renteria on Friday to pursue former Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon.
In an extraordinary statement, team President Theo Epstein said Renteria deserved to come back next season as the Cubs continue their rebuilding effort but Maddon’s unexpected decision to opt out of his contract with the Rays changed the equation.
In short, Maddon was too good to pass up.
"Maddon — who may be as well suited as anyone in the industry to manage the challenges that lie ahead of us — had become a free agent," Epstein said. "We saw it as a unique opportunity and faced a clear dilemma: be loyal to Rick or be loyal to the organization. In this business of trying to win a world championship for the first time in 107 years, the organization has priority over any one individual. We decided to pursue Joe."
Epstein said the Cubs were "transparent" at all times with Renteria once Maddon became available two weeks ago.
"Rick often said he was the beneficiary of the hard work of others who came before him," he said. "Now, in the young players he helped, we reap the benefits of his hard work as we move forward. He deserved better and we wish him nothing but the best."
Renteria’s agent, Ken Solomon, declined comment. He also said Renteria would not comment, either.
Long regarded as one of baseball’s best managers, Maddon opted out of his contract with Tampa Bay after Andrew Friedman left the Rays’ front office to take over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Oct. 14. Maddon’s free agency created a buzz during the World Series, with the talk centering on where he might go and all the possibilities for his new job.
Renteria was offered another job within the Cubs organization and Epstein praised him several times after leading Chicago to a 73-89 in his only season as a major league manager. It was a seven-win improvement from 2013, the last of Dale Sveum’s two years in charge.
Looking for a turnaround after five consecutive losing seasons, the Cubs hope Maddon will agree to manage a promising, young roster and a franchise with far more resources than he ever enjoyed with the small-market Rays.
With Renteria in the dugout, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Starlin Castro each had a rebound season, and young sluggers Javier Baez and Jorge Soler were among a group of prospects who showed considerable promise in their first major league action. There are also heralded prospects in the wings, including third baseman Kris Bryant and shortstop Addison Russell.
Maddon had a 754-705 record in nine seasons in Tampa Bay, leading the club to four playoff appearances, two AL East titles and a five-game loss to Philadelphia in the 2008 World Series. The two-time AL Manager of the Year was the bench coach for six seasons under Angels manager Mike Scioscia before he was hired by Tampa Bay in November 2005.
Renteria had two years left on the contract he signed with the Cubs last November, and the inevitable turnover on the major league staff could affect Chicago’s ability to attract quality coaches. Renteria, who was the bench coach in San Diego before he got his first opportunity to be a big league manager, already was looking at a different staff for his second year.
Hitting coach Bill Mueller resigned after Epstein announced that Mike Brumley would not return as assistant hitting coach. John Mallee, a Chicago native, was hired to replace Mueller, Eric Hinske shifted to assistant hitting coach and former Cubs outfielder Doug Dascenzo was hired as first base and outfield coach.
Now their fate is up in the air. Same for pitching coach Chris Bosio, who has drawn praise for his work with Jake Arrieta and a couple other pitchers who were traded away by the Cubs after they rebounded until the tutelage of the former major leaguer.