The Astros split the opening games of the ALCS in Houston, taking the second contest on a Carlos Correa walk-off homer in extras after being throttled in the opener. Because the late night Sunday delayed their arrival in New York, the Astros cancelled a voluntary workout scheduled for Monday evening at Yankee stadium. That gave bench coach Joe Espada just enough time to connect through Chicago and interview with the Cubs before heading east.
Likely among the Cubs’ top two or three choices for the gig, it was initially thought that a sit down with Espada would have to wait until the conclusion of ALCS. But as Astros manager AJ Hinch told the media Monday in New York, the organization is not going to stand in the way of anyone’s upward mobility.
“We’re very respectful of what the task at hand and what we’re trying to do,” Hinch said. “We also want to make sure that any of our people are given the opportunities for these special circumstances and these jobs that are rare and they’re hard to get at the appropriate time, both in their interview process and that accommodates our schedule, and when we feel like we could fit it in for him.”
This is Espada’s second season as Hinch’s bench coach after spending four years in New York as a special assistant to Brian Cashman and then as Joe Girardi‘s third base/infield coach. Prior to that, Espada spent four years as a hitting instructor and infield coordinator in the Marlins organization before serving as Miami’s third base coach for another four years.
During that time, he has also managed Gigantes de Carolina of the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente in winter ball and coached the Puerto Rican team in the 2013 and ’17 World Baseball Classics. But the Cubs aren’t just looking for experience, otherwise they’d have hired Joe Girardi already. What they need is someone who can communicate effectively, whether it’s with members of the front office or young players from all parts of the globe.
“He’s a really good baseball man. He’s smart. He’s got leadership qualities,” Hinch said of Espada. “Any team that wants to consider him is heading down the right path with him. He’s incredible for us. If we lose him, it’s because it’s another leadership opportunity; if not, then he’ll be right by my side.”
Hinch knows a little something about having his bench coach hired away, since Alex Cora leaving for the Red Sox opened a spot for Espada in the first place. Now it appears a near certainty that Espada will get a job somewhere, even if it’s not with the Cubs.
He’s not nearly as well known to most Cubs fans as the other presumed favorites like Girardi and David Ross, but Espada is sort of a combination of the two. Will that be enough to win him the job? Who knows, but we should find out pretty soon because the final remaining candidate in the search, Gabe Kapler, is interviewing this week.