Chicago Cubs: The search is on as Jim Hickey resigns as pitching coach

After just one season on the Chicago Cubs coaching staff, Jim Hickey resigned on Tuesday night, citing ‘personal reasons’ that prompted his departure.

For the second time in as many seasons, the Chicago Cubs will enter spring training with both a new hitting and pitching coach.

After the Cubs fired Chili Davis and replaced him with Anthony Iapoce, the Cubs coaching staff appeared to be set. Until two weeks ago, the assumption was that Hickey would be returning for at least one more season.

That was until Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer told reporters the coaching staff was yet to be finalized and speculation about Hickey’s future began. With Hickey’s decision to step down, the Cubs will now have another void to fill as they enter what appears to be a busy offseason.

Hickey’s impact in 2018

Hickey came to the Cubs after spending 11 seasons as the pitching coach for the Tampa Bay Rays. In his years with the Rays, Hickey developed a close relationship with current Cubs manager Joe Maddon. This was undoubtedly a large part of the decision to fire Chris Bosio and bring in Hickey ahead of the 2018 campaign.

This year, Hickey’s rotation ranked third in Major League Baseball with a 3.65 ERA. That’s even more impressive when you consider the myriad of issues the staff faced.

Tyler Chatwood could never make the proper adjustment in order to find the strike zone, Yu Darvish was ineffective prior to a season-ending injury and Carl Edwards Jr. struggled down the stretch.

However, numbers don’t lie. Hickey had his rotation performing well enough for the Cubs to make a deep run in the playoffs. Cubs pitchers kept the team in a lot of games throughout the pennant race despite a stagnant offense.

Possible replacements for Hickey

No, Bosio isn’t going to come back to reclaim his job. He had success with the Cubs in 2016 but was clearly not popular within the organization. His new club, the Detroit Tigers, parted ways with Bosio following allegations of his making a racist comment about a team employee.

The Cubs would be best to stray away from any additional controversy, and probably wouldn’t be looking in Bosio’s direction anyways. So if Bosio is out, who’s left?

One intriguing candidate is Rick Kranitz. Kranitz was recently fired as pitching coach for the Phillies. At 60 years old, Kranitz is a baseball lifer who has been the pitching coach for the Marlins, Orioles, and Phillies during his career. He recently has had success with Aaron Nola, who finished third in National League Cy Young voting this year.

Kranitz’s pedigree could mesh well with a veteran Cubs pitching staff.

Dark horse candidate

Mike Borzello has been in the Cubs organization since 2011. He has often been referred to as the secret weapon for Cubs pitchers. Borzello uses video and analytics to set a game plan with the Cubs pitcher and catcher prior to every game.

Borzello is technically considered a catching coach, but his job goes way beyond working with the catchers. He is constantly working with Cubs pitchers on pitch selection and game plan. Borzello, whose godfather is Joe Torre, is the definition of a baseball rat.

Borzello started his non-playing career as a bullpen catcher for the Yankees in 1996 and remained there before joining the Dodgers as a catching coach in 2007. Borzello originally came to the Cubs with Dale Sveum in 2011 and was kept on the staff through the Rick Renteria tenure, and now remains a part of Maddon’s staff.

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Borzello could be the perfect guy for the pitching coach job given his rapport with Cubs pitchers. With Cubs players going through a lot of different coaches and philosophies over the past two seasons, it might be best to upgrade from within.