We are only a few days into hot stove season and Jed Hoyer the clubhouse leader for winning the winter, though there is far more to come. I’m still struggling to fathom the coup he pulled off to sign Craig Counsell, something I thought would never happen. Yes, the decision to dismiss David Ross was as cold-blooded as it gets, and that conversation must have been equally awkward and uncomfortable. Said discussion took place at Ross’s home in Florida and was reportedly heated.
Ross had his faults and he’d probably never lead the Cubs to a World Series, but he wasn’t a bad manager. It’s also unfair to compare his firing to that of Rick Renteria in 2014. Ross is a beloved member of the team’s fanbase and won a World Series with Chicago as a personal catcher to Jon Lester. His teammates carried him off the field after the Game 7 win in Cleveland. Yes, many of us questioned some of his decisions as a manager, but that’s par for the course. We often questioned Joe Maddon, easily the best skipper in team history.
Because I live in Milwaukee, I’m very familiar with Counsell. From a personality perspective, he’s nearly a clone of Hoyer. He has no history with the Cubs other than repeatedly beating them in big games as an opposing manager. He doesn’t have the panache Maddon did and it may take some of Chicago’s players a little time to warm up to him, particularly Dansby Swanson. Like Ross, he’s considered a players’ manager, just with a much more even-keeled demeanor. Perhaps the biggest difference is how Counsell outpaces Ross as a tactician.
What comes next? That’s the bigger question surrounding Hoyer’s stealthy poaching of the division rival Brewers. There’s no way Hoyer could have convinced Counsell he’ll outspend the Mets. On the flip side, Counsell could have remained in Milwaukee, where frugality headlines each winter. Hoyer and Tom Ricketts have indicated that luxury tax thresholds won’t prevent the front office from fielding a championship-contending team. We’ll see.
Chicago’s new manager was successful this season because he trusted his rookies and younger players. That certainly gives him an edge over Ross, who remained loyal to his veterans to a fault. Pete Crow-Armstrong may benefit the most, as will the Cubs’ young pitchers, though some of that will depend on Counsell’s coaching staff. Bench coach Pat Murphy may join Counsell in Chicago if he doesn’t succeed his boss as Milwaukee’s manager. It will also be interesting to see what happens to Tommy Hottovy, Dustin Kelly, Mike Napoli, and John Mallee. Andy Green could be a candidate to manage the Brewers.
Cubs News & Notes
- As the Cubs did their homework knowing Counsell chose to play this year out rather than sign an extension with Milwaukee, they were told by one of Counsell’s friends, “If he ever managed anywhere else, the Cubs have always been his dream job.”
- Counsell’s hiring was a complete surprise, so much so that many members of the front office were caught off guard by Hoyer’s courtship with the team’s new manager.
- The Cubs are showing a big commitment to 2024 and beyond by hiring Counsell.
- Ross has been mentioned by some as a possible successor to Counsell in Milwaukee. That would be something. Murphy, Gabe Kapler, and Mark DeRosa are the speculative favorites locally.
- The Padres are reportedly interested in hiring Ross to be their next manager.
- The organization spoke well of Ross when announcing the unexpected managerial change.
- Still, Hoyer shoved sentimentality aside by firing Ross.
- Speaking of butt-hurt feelings, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said Counsell “lost us and he’s lost our community.” The Cubs’ first 2024 visit to Milwaukee is May 27, and won’t that be fun?
- The Cubs don’t play a division rival next season until the Brewers visit Chicago on May 3.
- In other news, the Cubs extended a qualifying offer of $20.325 million to Cody Bellinger. They’ll receive an extra draft choice if Bellinger signs with another team.
- Jim Bowden of The Athletic predicts Bellinger will re-up with the Cubs ($) on a six-year deal worth $144 million.
- Nico Hoerner is proud of his first Gold Glove award. He earned it, but his path to the trophy was a bit circuitous as he moved around the diamond to fit Chicago’s needs.
- The Cubs traded former first-round pick Brendon Little to the Blue Jays for cash.
- The Red Sox intend to pursue former Cubs starter Marcus Stroman.
- The Cubs are working with Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson to bring the All-Star Game back to Wrigley Field.
Odds & Sods
Excuse me? Maybe Hal will fire Aaron Boone and hire Ross.
Hal Steinbrenner said Aaron Boone believes bunting is becoming a bigger part of the game. So the expectation is that will increase.
— Chris Kirschner (@ChrisKirschner) November 7, 2023
- Milwaukee: Sorry, Brewers fans. Don Mattingly might be interested in Milwaukee’s managerial opening. My gut tells me the Brewers will hire Mark DeRosa.
- Cincinnati: Matt McLain and Spencer Steer were not among the finalists for the NL Rookie of the Year award.
- Pittsburgh: Rhys Hoskins, Luis Severino, and Jason Heyward are potential free-agent targets for the Pirates.
- St. Louis: Willson Contreras provided an interesting and somewhat shocking take on Hoyer’s decision to fire Ross.
The writers at MLB Trade Rumors are quite exuberant in their 2023-24 free agent predictions. They project that Bellinger will get 12 years and $264 million, Yoshinobu Yamamoto will get $225 million over nine years, and Shohei Ohtani is pegged at $528 million on a 12-year deal. Matt Chapman is linked to the Cubs by one writer, as are Yuki Matsui and Jeimer Candelario. Two of their writers predict Shoto Imanaga will sign with the North Siders.
The projections by Zach Crizer of Yahoo! are much more realistic.
A total of seven players received qualifying offers and all are expected to pass.
Ohtani is reportedly in no hurry to decide on a new team, and that should slow free agency to a crawl.
Bellinger’s next team will have to evaluate his complicated career arc and decide which version will show up going forward.
The Giants could pivot to Bellinger if they are unable to sign Ohtani.
The Dodgers are favored to sign Ohtani.
The Guardians hired Stephen Vogt to replace Terry Francona and the Mets signed Carlos Mendoza once they realized Counsell was coming to the Cubs. The Angels, Astros, Padres, and Brewers are still searching for a new manager.
The Diamondbacks extended manager Tory Lovullo through the 2026 season.
Orioles GM Mike Elias was named MLB Executive of the Year.
It’s going to be a long winter for Brewers fans.
Made this just for you two. Wear it proudly. pic.twitter.com/o57R3CKqA8
— Joe Obvious (@joe__obvious) November 7, 2023
They Said It
- “Today we made the difficult decision to dismiss David Ross as our Major League Manager. On behalf of the Cubs organization, we express our deep gratitude for David’s contributions to our club, both on and off the field. First as a player and then as a manager, David continually showcased his ability to lead. David’s legacy will be felt in Chicago for generations and his impact on our organization will stack up with the legends that came before him.” – Hoyer
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
Life will be much better for Counsell south of the Cheddar Curtain.