Chicago Cubs

Ken Rosenthal: Joe Maddon won’t be a free-agent manager very long

MLB on FOX reporter/senior writer at The Athletic Ken Rosenthal spoke with FanSided’s Mark Carman on Joe Maddon’s baseball future beyond the 2019 season.

The Chicago Cubs are running out of ball games to make the NL postseason as a Wild Card team. As of Sept. 23, the Cubs have lost six games in a row and are four games back of the division rival Milwaukee Brewers for the second NL Wild Card spot.

Chicago has already lost out on a division crown for the second consecutive season, as the archrival St. Louis Cardinals won the NL Central only a few days ago. With their Wild Card elimination number at an uncomfortable three games, it’s looking increasingly likely that the Cubs won’t be playing in October this fall.

One ongoing narrative that has been a distraction for this Senior Circuit club has been that manager Joe Maddon is essentially a lame duck. Maddon led the Cubs to their World Series championship in 2016 and achieved unbelievable success with the Tampa Bay Rays before that. Yet, Maddon is playing out the last year of his Cubs contract and isn’t expected to return.

FanSided’s Mark Carman met with MLB on FOX reporter and senior writer of The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal to discuss what has gone wrong with the Cubs, what the future holds for Maddon as a manager and a few other topics on Carman’s On the Mark with Mark Carman podcast.

When asked what’s been up with the Cubs not being able to put it all together this season, Rosenthal offered, “Wish I had the answer…They haven’t really synced up all at once, which is obviously a problem…It’s been one of those odd kind of years where they’re never really clicking.

More than anything, this probably means that this team has lacked the necessary chemistry to compete with the better ball clubs in the National League this season. The Cubs have the talent, but undeniably, something has been off with them for sure.

Carman mentioned that Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant has begun to wonder if Maddon coaching out the last year of his contract has had a negative effect on the team.

Rosenthal would add, “That’s something that affects different players in different ways. Some players don’t care at all who their manager and some recognize that there’s a different atmosphere around the team because he is in the final year of a contract.”

Sure, some players will play hard for anybody because that’s the type of ballplayer he is. That being said, the atmosphere surrounding this team hasn’t been great since early in the season and it probably won’t resolve until we know about Maddon’s future, with the Cubs or not.

On how long Maddon could be out of work if the Cubs don’t offer him a new contract after the 2019 MLB season, Rosenthal figures he won’t be a free-agent manager for all that long.

“I don’t expect very long, but I’m not sure what teams are thinking these days,” said Rosenthal. “No one seems to want to pay managers anymore. So if you’re gonna get Joe Maddon, you’re not going to pay him what you’re paying, for instance, Rocco Baldelli, one of his former players in Minnesota.”

While baseball has devalued the skipper more than it probably ever has, Rosenthal does find it odd that big-league clubs aren’t willing to pay top dollar for highly successful and iconic managers the caliber of Maddon.

“I understand that front offices want control and they want their people in and all of that, but there’s a lot of value to what a manager does. First of all, he’s your public face. He’s meeting with the media two times a day. He’s kind of messaging your franchise. But beyond that, he sets the tone for your team.”

It’s a massively important role because how the media portrays a team will influence how a fan base will view a team. De-clawing Maddon after he has brought unprecedented success to the once Lovable Losers can’t have the Wrigley Faithful feeling good about where ownership’s head is at. Though Maddon is likely gone, Rosenthal believes that he won’t be out of work for long.

“I don’t expect very long, but I’m not sure what teams are thinking these days. No one seems to want to pay managers anymore. So if you’re gonna get Joe Maddon, you’re not going to pay him what you’re paying, for instance, Rocco Baldelli, one of his former players in Minnesota.”

Carman had two more questions for Rosenthal that were outside of the Cubs’ vein: Which team is a dark horse to make noise this postseason and will the South Siders be big spenders in free agency this offseason?

“Oakland,” replied Rosenthal firmly. “I don’t necessarily believe that they are going to win a series. I think that they can win the Wild Card game. But they’re playing well right now…So I can see them at least causing some trouble.”

The Oakland Athletics continue to put together quality ballclubs in their Moneyball ways without having deep pockets as a franchise. Winning the Wild Card game seems probable, but getting past either the New York Yankees or the Houston Astros in the ALDS feels like wishful thinking at best.

As for if the Chicago White Sox will spend big this winter, Rosenthal responded with “they were in on the big names last offseason, so I don’t see why they wouldn’t be one of the bigger players this offseason.”

He would cite that there isn’t a Bryce Harper or a Manny Machado hitting free agency this winter. While the Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole is expected to be the biggest names potentially switching teams, Rosenthal doesn’t think the White Sox will target him. However, he does think that adding a few key veterans that can serve as complementary pieces will go a long way for them in 2020.

Next: David Ross has the itch to manage, will it be with the Cubs?

Overall, it seems that the Cubs’ championship window may be closing, while the White Sox’s window is now opening on their competitive life cycle. Oakland could make things interesting in the AL postseason in a few weeks, but these three teams aren’t winning it all next month.

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