CHICAGO — Right after Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with Tampa Bay, the Chicago Cubs were mentioned as a possible landing spot for one of baseball’s best managers.
Flush with prospects and ready to make a splash in free agency, the Cubs already had a manager in Rick Renteria. But they just couldn’t resist the lure of Maddon’s sudden availability.
Looking for a turnaround after five consecutive losing seasons, the Cubs announced Friday that they had hired Maddon to replace Renteria after just one year on the job. The formal announcement will come Monday at a 2 p.m. ET news conference. The move pairs the respected Maddon with a promising roster and a franchise with far more resources than he ever enjoyed with the small-market Rays.
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Renteria was fired after leading Chicago to a 73-89 record 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, but not close to reaching the playoffs or putting the Cubs in position to win their first World Series title since 1908.
"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," Cubs president Theo Epstein said in a statement.
"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 will not comment.
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.
Now it’s up to Maddon to help that core group of young players to continue to improve, while paving the way for another wave of heralded prospects that includes third baseman Kris Bryant and shortstop Addison Russell.
It’s a familiar situation for the 60-year-old Hazleton, Pa. native, who deftly guided several young Rays rosters into contention in the rugged AL East.
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.
The answer became public just two days after San Francisco’s Game 7 win over the Royals, with Maddon becoming Chicago’s fifth manager since the start of the 2010 season and the 54th in the history of the woebegone franchise.
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.
While the addition of Maddon is a coup for president of baseball operations Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, the quick hook for Renteria could turn into a problem for the front office down the road.
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 unclear. 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.