The Angels became the first team to fill their managerial vacancy Wednesday when they made the long-awaited announcement that they’d hired Joe Maddon. Though the Cubs surely aren’t feeling the need to make a reactionary hire of their own, their search has been full-steam ahead over the last two weeks and their interviews have more or less concluded.
That they brought Astros bench coach Joe Espada in during Monday’s break in the ALCS action was a strong signal that he’s very much a legitimate candidate. But it also meant the Cubs want to get everything buttoned up in short order, perhaps even by the end of the week. The only remaining interview with Gabe Kapler is thought to be little more than a favor to an old friend, though Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer may want to pick Kapler’s brain about his time in the Dodgers’ front office.
Mark Loretta and Will Venable were seemingly given similar courtesies as members of Maddon’s staff hand-picked by the front office. Carlos Beltrán and former Cub Sam Fuld both declined opportunities, with the former preferring the Mets job. That leaves Joe Girardi as the lone serious candidate, but he’s never been considered the favorite for the Cubs gig by those close to the team.
Girardi recently stepped down as manager of Team USA ahead of the Premier 12 Olympic qualifier, presumably because he’s prepping for an MLB gig. That could be the Cubs, but Mike Puma of the New York Post cited a source as saying Girardi wants the Mets job “badly enough” that getting along with GM Brodie Van Wagenen won’t be an issue.
According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the SChicago Sun-Times, it’s now down to a two-man race for the Cubs gig. David Ross has been the favorite among baseball insiders and rival execs for the last year or so, with Espada closing the gap based on a strong resume and impressive performance in his interview. Ross is still believed to hold the edge in the race, but it doesn’t appear anything has been decided.
An announcement could have come this week, maybe still could if it’s Ross, though Wednesday’s ALCS rainout pushed things back and day and saw to it that Friday is no longer a travel day. The official decision should come by Monday either way, since that is World Series Eve and the last day for teams to break news before the league puts a moratorium on anything other than the Fall Classic.
Even if the Astros prevail over the Yankees and Espada is the choice, the Cubs wouldn’t have to wait announce it. After all, then-Astros bench coach Alex Cora was named Red Sox manager the day after the Astros beat Girardi’s Yankees in the 2017 ALCS. But if the Astros win the pennant and Monday comes and goes with no announcement, run to the nearest sportsbook and put the mortgage on Espada.
So, Cubs fans, who’s it going to be?