The hiring is a done deal. The Chicago Cubs will announce Joe Maddon officially on Monday as the 54th manager in their long history. He will be the third under the Theo Epstein regime. The only question now–besides some bad press and questionable ethics–what will it cost the Cubs?
When Maddon decided to opt-out of his deal in Tampa Bay, it was on a very unusual clause put in by his agentt, Alan Nero. If the management at the top in Tampa was to change, Maddon was free to leave and seek other opportunities. At that time, nobody thought much of it. But when general manager Anthony Friedman left for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the unusual opening in the deal came to the forefront. While Maddon and the Rays publicly stated they were continuing to move forward after Friedman’s departure, it all changed quickly.
By Friday, many sources had the Cubs pegged as the likely landing spot for Maddon. The only issue? There was no opening. The Cubs had Rick Renteria, who they had given a public show of support moving into 2015. Added with the fact he was under contract for two more years, it seemed unlikely. But the media frenzy would continue, and other possibilities mentioned–Mets, Dodgers, Braves–all publicly stated they were happy with their current managers and we’re not interested in the services of Maddon.
The Cubs? Nothing but silence. No denial of interest, no further support of Renteria, which only fueled the speculation.
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According to the statement made by Epstein, the Cubs verified with Major League Baseball that Maddon was indeed a free agent before making any contact with he or his agent. The Cubs said that on Friday, Jed Hoyer flew to San Diego to inform Renteria they would be speaking to Maddon. On Monday, Renteria through a statement confirmed he was aware of the situation, but was staying focused on his task with the Chicago Cubs.
The time line moved very quickly, and to the Rays, that in itself seemed very unusual. On Friday, the Cubs announced that Renteria had indeed been fired, and Maddon was cited as the reason for the move. Shortly after, the Cubs made the announcement that Maddon would be introduced as manager on Monday at the Cubby Bear Lounge due to the ongoing renovations of Wrigley Field.
There is some speculation, that while Maddon stated he wanted to stay with the Rays, he may have had his agent reach out to other teams to gauge interest, should he decide to enact the opt-out clause. It was a perfect time for a manager of his success to find his worth ass a free agent. While the Rays would have paid him well, the small market team was unlikely to match what a team, like the Cubs, could offer. And with no actual opening besides Minnesota, Maddon needed to know he had a paycheck “parachute” before he jumped.
Should the Rays pursue the tampering charge, or simply file a complaint with the MLB, it may be a very difficult thing to prove. And if they can, then the punishment must be decided. A top prospect? Such as Javier Baez, AddisoRussell, or even Kris Bryant? Or would it simply be a fine and a mark against the Cubs? Posssibly a three strike type policy?
The Rays may decide not to pursue the matter, unless they know something that the rest of us don’t. At the very least, they could file a complaint to at least put the Cubs, and other teams who may follow this path in the future, to think deeply against it. One thing is for certain, it is unlikely that this matter will come to a close with the announcement of Maddon’s hire on Monday.