In the interest of full disclosure, this is at least a partial regurgitation of what we’ve discussed over the past week or two. But this is more than me being a mama bird, as some recent developments have served to solidify the likelihood that changes to Joe Maddon’s staff will be necessary.
Brandon Hyde originally joined the Cubs in 2014 as Rick Renteria’s bench coach, then shifted to first base duties under Maddon before resuming his original role when Dave Martinez departed. Hyde has been getting a lot of looks as a managerial candidate this fall and is reportedly on the short lists of the Blue Jays, Rangers, and Twins. And he could be looking even better as the candidate pool grows shallower.
The Reds hired David Bell, the Angels hired Brad Ausmus, and Joe Girardi has removed himself from contention with the Rangers as speculation swirls that he’s waiting on the Cubs job. That’s three big names, all of whom overlap with at least one of the gigs for which Hyde has interviewed. Though it’s entirely possible he is passed over, I’d put good money on the Cubs having to fill a vacancy at bench coach.
Hyde’s uncertain future is probably why the Cubs have yet to publicly confirm the 2019 status of any coaches other than Anthony Iapoce, who they recently hired to replace Chili Davis. No reason to set the staff and have guys plan for next season when their roles are likely to change. And even it’s just the bench coach role in flux, the resultant impact could shake things up and have other duties shifting significantly.
A popular notion among fans involves David Ross joining the staff in the event of Hyde’s departure, either as a direct replacement or in some other capacity should someone else slide into that role. First base coach Will Venable, who joined the team last year as something of a Jed Hoyer protege, is another option to replace Hyde. Mike Borzello and Brian Butterfield are options as well, with Mark DeRosa perhaps a dark horse.
Filling Hyde’s role internally would necessitate a rearrangement of the deck chairs on the [insert the name of a ship that wasn’t doomed], though to what extent depends on who the Cubs choose. Despite his technical title of catching coordinator, Borzello is responsible for a lot of the team’s strategic efforts, including defensive alignments and pitch sequencing. He’s basically a de facto bench coach already and a new title might not result in much of a change.
Butterfield is a hands-on guy who brings a ton of energy to his duties as third base coach and infield instructor. He could be part of helping the team be on mission each and every day, something that likely factored in the Iapoce hire. Then again, it’s not as though Butterfield doesn’t already interact with the players, so changing his role doesn’t necessarily magnify his impact.
Another possibility here is that Hyde sticks around, just as he did when the Mets came calling after last season. Joe Girardi can’t be the only person eyeing Maddon’s contract status and hedging his bets a little bit. It’s like a high-stakes game of musical chairs in which the remaining participants are circling the Maddon’s seat like so many ravenous sharks.
Except, you know, Maddon’s still in said seat and plans to seek an extension that would keep him there beyond 2019. That could make an internal candidate more likely for bench coach, since Maddon might not be too keen on bringing in someone who’s there primarily to replace him at some point.
Whatever ends up happening, expect it to take place soon. Other teams will be looking to get their own new managers in place, after which staffs will need to be solidified heading into the start of free agency on November 1. Then the real fun starts.