Ren­o­va­tion of ros­ter to switch into high gear

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - Paul Sul­li­van

Above: Bulls for­ward Lauri Markka­nen (24) shoots over Rock­ets for­ward PJ Tucker in the first half of Satur­day’s game at the United Cen­ter.

The reck­on­ing Cubs Pres­i­dent Theo Ep­stein threat­ened last win­ter if the team un­der­achieved in 2019 is well un­der­way, with new man­ager David Ross in place and his coach­ing staff un­der con­struc­tion.

As the gen­eral man­agers meet­ings be­gin Mon­day in Scotts­dale, Ariz., Ep­stein will be­gin to fo­cus more on the re­con­struc­tion of the Cubs ros­ter. Ru­mors of big-name depar­tures have be­gun with an ESPN re­port that the Cubs are shop­ping catcher Will­son Contreras.

Contreras won’t be alone. It’s just the be­gin­ning of what fig­ures to be a wild off­sea­son filled with spec­u­la­tion, an ex­pected byprod­uct of the Cubs’ fail­ure to make the post­sea­son de­spite hav­ing the sec­ond-high­est pay­roll in base­ball.

But first things first. Ep­stein re­port­edly reached an agree­ment with for­mer Padres man­ager Andy Green to serve as Ross’ bench coach, re­plac­ing Mark Loretta. Ep­stein was un­avail­able for com­ment, but he said after Ross’ in­tro­duc­tory news con­fer­ence Oct. 28 that the Cubs were seek­ing some­one with man­age­rial ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It’s im­por­tant, given David’s lack of ex­pe­ri­ence man­ag­ing, to have some­one who has either man­aged or been a bench coach to help him, as he said, to stay a step ahead early on in the course of the game as he grows into the job,” Ep­stein said. “That would make a lot of sense.”

The Cubs have com­pletely over­hauled the coach­ing staff since the end of 2018, when they fired hit­ting coach Chili Davis and pitch­ing coach Jim Hickey after one sea­son and bench coach Bran­don Hyde left to man­age the Ori­oles.

Al­ready this off­sea­son they’ve waved good­bye to man­ager Joe Mad­don, Loretta, third base coach Brian But­ter­field, bullpen coach Lester Strode and strength and con­di­tion­ing coach Tim Buss. But­ter­field and Buss have joined Mad­don on the An­gels coach­ing staff.

Green is the sec­ond straight Cubs bench coach who last worked for the Padres. Loretta was a spe­cial as­sis­tant in the Padres base­ball op­er­a­tions depart­ment the pre­vi­ous nine sea­sons. In­com­ing bullpen coach Chris Young also started out as a scout with the Padres when Cubs gen­eral man­ager Jed Hoyer was the GM in San Diego.

Rick Ren­te­ria was the Padres bench coach when Ep­stein hired him to man­age the Cubs after the 2013 sea­son. Ren­te­ria lasted one year be­fore Mad­don re­placed him.

The Padres fired Green near the end of the 2019 sea­son dur­ing the team’s sec­ond­half free-fall. Orig­i­nally signed to a three­year deal in 2016 to steer a re­build, he re­ceived an ex­ten­sion through 2021 dur­ing the 2017 sea­son, mean­ing the Padres still will be pay­ing him the next two sea­sons.

The Cubs still were pay­ing Ren­te­ria in 2016 when he served as White Sox bench coach un­der man­ager Robin Ven­tura.

Green had a rep­u­ta­tion as a smart and an­a­lyt­i­cally savvy man­ager, and the Cubs ap­par­ently think he’s a nice fit with Ross, who is re­turn­ing to the dugout after three years in the ESPN booth.

Cubs fans may re­mem­ber Green best for an in­ci­dent in 2017 at Wrigley Field in which An­thony Rizzo knocked Padres catcher Austin Hedges out of the game in a home-plate col­li­sion the Padres deemed dirty. Ma­jor League Base­ball ruled that Rizzo vi­o­lated the home-plate col­li­sion rule de­signed to pro­tect catch­ers from in­jury but opted not to sus­pend Rizzo, an­ger­ing some of the Padres brass.

The day after the col­li­sion, Green and the Padres were crit­i­cized on so­cial me­dia for be­ing “soft” when Padres pitch­ers didn’t re­tal­i­ate against Rizzo, who home­red on the sec­ond pitch he saw.

“The group of guys out here, they’re not soft,” Green said. “They’ll give you ev­ery­thing they’ve got on the field ev­ery sin­gle day. Ev­ery­body’s en­ti­tled to their opin­ion, but I know this group of guys would be out fight­ing in a heart­beat if they were asked to do so. But just don’t think it’s the pru­dent thing at this point in time.”

Padres ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Ron Fowler told the San Diego Union-Tri­bune that Rizzo’s col­li­sion was “prob­a­bly the most egre­gious vi­o­la­tion since the rule went in, and to do that with no reper­cus­sions, I think, is pure BS.” Fowler also de­fended Green’s de­ci­sion not to re­tal­i­ate.

“Any­one who’s call­ing Andy Green soft is crazy,” he said. “I think he’s very bright, but he’s also very com­pet­i­tive. He’s any­thing but soft. Andy knows our team, Andy knows what needs to be done, and I’m hop­ing he’s go­ing to be our man­ager for a long time.”

After los­ing 96 games in 2018, the Padres were sup­posed to turn a cor­ner in their re­build this year with the sign­ing of free agent Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300 mil­lion deal. They were six games over .500 in mid-April and .500 at the All-Star break when things started go­ing south. They went 25-47 in the sec­ond half, in­clud­ing 7-20 in Septem­ber, prompt­ing Green’s fir­ing with eight games re­main­ing.

The Cubs have de­ferred com­ment on all coach­ing moves un­til the staff is com­plete.

CHRIS SWEDA/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

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