David Ross on list of pos­si­ble can­di­dates for Cubs man­ager

The Saline Courier - - SPORTS - As­so­ci­ated Press

CHICAGO — The field of can­di­dates to be the next man­ager of the Chicago Cubs is be­gin­ning to take shape.

Pres­i­dent of base­ball op­er­a­tions Theo Ep­stein said Mon­day that for­mer catcher David Ross is on the broad list be­ing as­sem­bled by the front of­fice. He also said he wants to talk to at least one mem­ber of the coach­ing staff about the job, and at least one other can­di­date is work­ing for a team in the play­offs.

“We’re full speed ahead,” Ep­stein said. “We’re not go­ing to drag this out any longer than it needs to be, but we also want to be thor­ough.”

Ep­stein is look­ing for a suc­ces­sor to Joe Mad­don, whose con­tract ex­pired af­ter Chicago missed the play­offs this year for the first time since 2014. The Cubs made four post­sea­son ap­pear­ances with Mad­don in the dugout, win­ning the World Se­ries in 2016 for the first time in 108 years.

While lav­ish­ing praise on Mad­don and por­tray­ing the Cubs’ is­sues in more of an or­ga­ni­za­tional prism, Ep­stein said he wanted a man­ager who will help fa­cil­i­tate team-build­ing and cre­ate a cul­ture of ac­count­abil­ity.

“I think for this group at this time we need to find a way to cre­ate a cul­ture and en­vi­ron­ment that com­pels ev­ery player to push him­self to be the ab­so­lute best ver­sion of him­self,” Ep­stein said, “to be the very ab­so­lute best player that he can be. It’s a cul­ture where that’s ex­pected.”

The 42-year-old Ross played on the 2016 team and serves as a spe­cial as­sis­tant in the Cubs’ base­ball op­er­a­tions depart­ment. He also works for ESPN, and he talked about his in­ter­est on the net­work on Sun­day.

“I think it’s one of the best jobs in base­ball,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of close ties with those guys. I think the in­ter­est would be there. I think my heart is drawn to that dugout a lit­tle bit.”

Ross is close friends with Cubs left-han­der Jon Lester and knows a lot of the play­ers quite well from his time with the team. But Ep­stein down­played the im­por­tance of those re­la­tion­ships.

“I think David Ross has a lot of great things go­ing for him,” he said. “I would say his con­nec­tion to the play­ers on this team and es­pe­cially his con­nec­tion to the 2016 team are not nec­es­sar­ily as­sets that dis­tin­guish him. Those are not nec­es­sar­ily things that are go­ing to be im­por­tant to us.”

Asked if Joe Gi­rardi, an­other for­mer ma­jor league catcher who played for the Cubs, was a po­ten­tial can­di­date, Ep­stein said: “I’m just go­ing to ad­dress the David Ross thing be­cause he’s part of the or­ga­ni­za­tion and sort of al­ready ad­dressed it pub­licly. As far as other can­di­dates, we’ll let you guys know again in due time.”

Head­ing into what sure looks like a busy off­sea­son, here are a cou­ple more ar­eas to watch with the Cubs:

RE­TURN

EN­GAGE­MENT?

Ni­cholas Castel­lanos made a big im­pres­sion on the Cubs af­ter he was ac­quired in a July 31 trade with the Tigers, bat­ting .321 with 16 homers and 36 RBIS in 51 games. He is el­i­gi­ble for free agency, and Ep­stein made no se­cret of his in­ter­est in bring­ing him back.

“Man, I love ev­ery­thing about Nick Castel­lanos,” Ep­stein said. “I mean what a job he did. I don’t think you can ask more of an in-sea­son trade ac­qui­si­tion than what he did.”

MONEY MAT­TERS Chicago had the sec­ond­high­est pay­roll on open­ing day this year at $209 mil­lion. What it will look like next year re­mains to be seen.

“With re­gards to pay­roll, I wouldn’t make any as­sump­tions,” Ep­stein said. “I think we’ve come to re­al­ize that strate­gi­cally it’s best just not to talk about it.”

KB AND BAEZ

Kris Bryant and Javier Báez are un­der con­trac­tual con­trol for two more years, and the Cubs are go­ing to have to de­ter­mine what they want to try to do with each slug­ger very soon.

Ep­stein isn’t rul­ing any­thing out.

“They’re both guys we’ve had some level of dis­cus­sion with in the past about try­ing to find an ar­range­ment that could keep them Cubs longer,” he said, “and we’ll prob­a­bly get around to do­ing that again this win­ter at some point.

“Would love them to be Cubs, but again, all these play­ers, these are guys we have to be open-minded about, too.”

ADDING SOME HELP Ep­stein plans to make sev­eral struc­tural and lead­er­ship changes to the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“You’re likely to see a direc­tor of hit­ting and a direc­tor of pitch­ing join the or­ga­ni­za­tion to en­sure that we are build­ing these depart­ments, teach­ing the game, eval­u­at­ing play­ers for where the game is now and where the game will be go­ing,” he said.

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