It's the worst-kept secret in baseball. The Cubs would like to have Joe Girardi as their next manager. You know it. I know it. The Cubs front office knows it, though they can't really say so. Everyone knows it.
What's stopping them from hiring him right now is that he's still under contract to the New York Yankees, through October 31, and the Yankees, led by general manager Brian Cashman, would like to have him return.
This, we also know, though what we do not know are the criteria Girardi himself has for staying -- whether it be family considerations, the future of the Yankees and the Cubs, or something else he hasn't said, or all of the above.
Girardi has said it won't be about money, and though many baseball people who say that kind of thing do so for leverage in negotiations, I don't believe that's the case with Girardi. He's always had a reputation as a straight shooter -- if he says it's not about money, I believe him.
What else can we believe about all the stories we've heard? Not much, I'd say.
Cashman declined to say if he would grant Girardi permission to speak to the Cubs. Because Girardi is under contract until Oct. 31, a source told ESPNNewYork.com that the Yankees are hesitant to give him permission to speak with the Cubs. From the Yankees' point of view, allowing Girardi to talk to the Cubs prior to Oct. 31 would only give Girardi more leverage in negotiations. If talks were to break down, the Yankees might let him talk to the Cubs.
Okay, that's fair enough and makes sense; I doubt the Yankees would give that permission until and unless Girardi tells Brian Cashman he won't return under any circumstances.
But then there's this from ESPN New York, written on Wednesday (updated early Thursday):
Sources told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney that Cubs ownership is interested in hiring Girardi, but a source in the Yankees' organization told ESPNNewYork.com last week that Cubs general manager Theo Epstein would prefer to hire Brad Ausmus.
This, we also know, though I think "prefer" is too strong a word. The Cubs are reported to have other names on their list, including former Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch and Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. There could be, and likely are, others.
And then, there was this screaming headline in the New York Daily News, which resulted in much kerfuffle on Twitter Thursday:
Yankees won’t allow Cubs shot at Joe Girardi
That's a little too strong a headline, wouldn't you say? The Yankees have not yet flat-out said "no"; they're in the middle of contract negotiations with a current employee, so of course they likely wouldn't say yes now, as the article details:
GM Brian Cashman has declined to reveal whether the Cubs have asked for permission to speak with Girardi, though a team source said it’s a moot point, as the Yankees would not grant such a request while they try to hammer out a new deal to retain the manager.
Hyperventilating over, there's one more clue, from Chicago Tribune beat writer Mark Gonzales:
According to multiple reports out of New York, it's expected Girardi will decide soon whether to stay with the Yankees or move on, which would pave the way for the Cubs to start official negotiations that could bring him to Wrigley Field. Girardi is under contract with the Yankees through Oct. 31, but it's expected that the Yankees won't stand in Girardi's way if he wishes to pursue other interests, such as negotiating with the Cubs.
Really, all we know at this time is that Cashman and Girardi have had discussions about a contract extension. We know nothing of the details of that discussion, other than the two discussed "parameters" of a new deal.
Girardi either will or won't sign an extension. If he does, the Cubs will move on. If he doesn't and tells the Yankees he won't stay under any circumstances, as Gonzales says, the Yankees will likely grant permission to the Cubs to discuss a contract here.
Until we get more real news, everything else is pure speculation, whether it's on the part of sportswriters, me, or you.
I'm sure you have some more speculation of your own. Have at it.