The announcement of the departure of Jim Hickey as Cubs pitching coach late Tuesday leads to the obvious question: Who’s going to succeed him?
I’m here to say that I think Rick Kranitz would be a good replacement.
Kranitz has 13 years of big-league experience as a pitching coach: Marlins (2006-07), Orioles (2008-10), Brewers (2011-15) and Phillies (2016-18). He was let go by the Phillies after the 2018 season despite the progress shown from some young Phillies pitchers, particularly Aaron Nola, who finished third in Cy Young voting. The Brewers team he worked for in 2011 won 96 games and the N.L. Central title. Among pitchers he worked with on that Milwaukee club were a young Yovani Gallardo (who finished seventh in Cy Young voting that year) and Zack Greinke.
Before 2006, Kranitz spent more than 20 years in the Cubs organization, first as a player-coach in 1984 and 1985, then as a minor-league pitching coach and coordinator. He was the Cubs’ bullpen coach in 2002, managed at Daytona in 2003 and was the Iowa Cubs’ pitching coach in 2004 and 2005.
I have to be honest here. I don’t know much about Kranitz’ pitching philosophy or how he gets along with players. But I do know this: The Cubs’ field management/coaching staff is in deep flux, with several departures from the World Series staff after 2017, and more after 2018. It’s been speculated that Joe Maddon is on the hot seat in 2019 and might not have his contract extended. Kranitz is 60, as I noted, with 13 years’ experience as a big-league pitching coach, and might be a good selection if Maddon is not retained after 2019 and the team decides to “go in another direction” after this coming season.
[Theo] Epstein hired Farrell as the Red Sox’s pitching coach in 2006 before he became manager of the Blue Jays in 2010 and the Red Sox in 2012. Farrell spent 2018 as a scout in the Reds organization.
Farrell has two sons who work for the Cubs. Jeremy is the minor-league infield coordinator, and Shane is an amateur scout. Another son, Luke, pitched 20 games for the Cubs in 2018 before he was claimed off waivers by the Angels in September. Cubs veteran Jon Lester pitched for Farrell with the Red Sox.
There’s certainly familiarity there, and as you know Theo has in the past hired various people who worked for him in Boston. Farrell is also, as noted, a former manager. He’s got seven managing seasons and a World Series title on his résumé. Would Theo put Farrell in place as pitching coach as a sign that he could be the next Cubs manager?
In any case, I’d think the Cubs would want to get someone in place soon so they can begin to lay out plans for 2019. The position of assistant hitting coach is also still vacant, as Andy Haines departed to become the hitting coach for the Brewers next season.
Lastly, Patrick Mooney at The Athletic sums up what this means for the 2019 Cubs:
But the third pitching coach in three years will be yet another variable for a team that needs a fast start to silence any speculation about the manager’s job security. By shutting down any extension talks this winter, Epstein sent a message so clear it might as well be on one of those T-shirts the Cubs wear around the clubhouse: Win or else.
No doubt, that’s true. Here’s hoping for a return to the World Series in 2019.
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