Will Joe Maddon’s lame-duck status hinder talks with guys like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado or will the Chicago Cubs overcome this in discussions?
If you were Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, would you sign a contract to be with the Chicago Cubs for 10 years or more if you knew Joe Maddon might not be around past year one? The possibility of Maddon as your manager has to be attractive to some players. But is the uncertainty of his contract status hurting the Cubs chances of acquiring free agents this offseason?
At the very least, it must give free agents something to think about. Maddon is one of the winningest active managers in baseball. He’s known for creating a great, relaxed atmosphere in the clubhouse. Even if he isn’t one of these new young managers that seem to be currently in fashion, no one can argue against his recent success and reputation.
Take Cole Hamels instead of Harper or Machado. Hamels was excited about being a Chicago Cub even before he joined the team. But now that he has been a Cub, he has experienced Joe Maddon’s clubhouse first hand. If Hamels signs a three-year contract, the second and third year might be with a different manager. Hamels might consider that before he puts his name on the dotted line.
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However, the Cubs have a lot more to offer than just their manager. The core of their team is young and under team control for years to come. Chicago has made it to the postseason four years in a row. The organization goes out of its way to treat the players and their families well. Their home games are in historic Wrigley Field. By being centrally located in the country, the number of miles traveled is among the lowest in the Major Leagues.
The front office has used all of these incentives to become one of the best recruiters in baseball. Even if the managerial situation might be in flux, ownership and the front office appears stable.
When Jason Heyward signed as a free agent with the Cubs instead of St. Louis Cardinals he said that one of the reasons he choose the Cubs was he’d “rather grow up with a bunch of guys and make them family and be able to cherish that without feeling like I had to restart.” At first, people took that to mean that Heyward was referring to the older Cardinals’ players. Cardinals fans and management took offense to that perception.
During Heyward’s first series back in St. Louis as a Chicago Cub, he clarified his comments. Heyward said that he was were referring to the few years remaining on the contracts of players such as Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday at the time.
"“It was kind of a heart-breaking experience for me that the business broke us up that quickly…. I just felt like Chicago’s going to give me a great opportunity to be with these guys for the majority of my contract.”"
For Heyward, it sounds as if the team and their players were much bigger factors than the manager. Along with the money, players are usually much more interested in the competitiveness of the team than the man who fills out the lineup card.
Players usually don’t sign with a specific team because of their manager. But Maddon isn’t an ordinary manager. He’s arguably the best manager in the game. If a player avoids the Cubs because Maddon is in the last year of his contract, there isn’t another Joe Maddon managing some other Major League team.
Maddon being on the last year of his contract might not be hurting the Cubs in free agency, but it certainly isn’t helping them either.