Chicago Cubs: Brian Butterfield still at the top of his coaching game

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 18: Mitch Moreland
OAKLAND, CA - MAY 18: Mitch Moreland /

When the Chicago Cubs decided to part ways with Gary Jones, they gave up a solid infield coach. But in hiring Brian Butterfield, they may have taken a dramatic step forward.

The Chicago Cubs love their ties to their former teams. From Theo Epstein and the Red Sox to Joe Maddon and the Rays, it seems it’s all come full circle. When the Cubs decided to make mass changes with the staff, they had ideas on who they wanted to replace everyone with. The one spot that was left with a question was the bench coach. But the Cubs ended that drama by naming first base coach Brandon Hyde to the spot.

In this case, it was a little bit of both that paved the way for the new Cubs’ coaches heading into the 2018 season. Maddon got his man in Jim Hickey, who was with him in 2007 until he left for Chicago in 2015.

More from Cubbies Crib

Red Sox coming in

Chili Davis and Brian Butterfield are both former Red Sox employees, and each will have a particular role once they get to Chicago. For Davis, it’s about developing a new approach for hitters–young hitters–who need that guidance at the plate.

But for Butterfield, his work will go even deeper for the Cubs. Not only is he the third base coach, but he’ll also handle the infield coaching and baserunning for the Cubs. After this season that saw the Cubs slip defensively, he’ll be a welcome change.

And let’s be honest about the Cubs baserunning–it’s far from perfect. Teaching speed is impossible. But the Cubs need to get back to the fundamentals of baserunning. There’s some team speed there, it just needs to be taught–and then refined.

One of the best

Back in March of 2014, Ian Browne wrote a piece on his work with the Red Sox infield. Butterfield was up before 3 a.m. every morning, often to take notes about things he had thought about for the next day. And when Butterfield inherited the two-time Gold Glove winner in Dustin Pedroia? He only got better, winning his third in 2013 with Butterfield as his teacher.

"“Just preparation, positioning and understanding a lot of different things about the game. The mindset on how to play team defense. He’s pretty darn good at what he does. He’s the best.”"

That’s a glowing review from one of Boston’s star players. But it went deeper than that. His intensity to the game and how he taught it that it brought smiles to the faces of other Red Sox staff and players.

So what could that mean for the Cubs infield?

Next: How good a skipper has Maddon been?

Assuming the infield remains the same, Butterfield will get two of the more dynamic players up the middle in Addison Russell and Javier Baez. He also will get Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, as well as Gold Glove finalist Ben Zobrist. Could he help Rizzo back to the Gold Glove and Platinum Glove winner he was in 2016?

Or could he turn the duo up the middle into winners as well? One thing is for sure. There’s plenty of potential on this Cubs team, and Butterfield will have his hands directly on the success of it.