The Cubs have recently replaced several 2018 coaches, and the notable hires as replacements are Anthony Iapoce (hitting coach) and Tommy Hottovy (pitching coach), as well as the hire of Terrmel Sledge to be assistant hitting coach and Mike Borzello adding “associate pitching coach” to his title as catching coach.
But after the departure of bench coach Brandon Hyde to become manager of the Orioles a couple of weeks ago, the team has not filled that vacant position. And we’re only about six weeks from the pitcher/catcher report date in Mesa (likely around February 10, though no official date has yet been announced).
So I’d think the Cubs would want to get someone in this position soon. Granted, it’s a holiday week and many people, including, probably, Cubs executives are off work, but I’d think they are likely thinking about this even during their vacations.
We already know David Ross won’t be the guy, as he’s signed a multi-year extension with ESPN. Ross is still a special assistant with the Cubs front office and they have already gone on record as saying they want him around the team more in 2019, so you’ll likely see that.
Here are some possible choices the Cubs could make for bench coach.
Baker has been in the Cubs organization since he retired as a player and currently holds the title of Mental Skills Coordinator. That’s a very important role in modern baseball as teams want their players to be in the right frame of mind to succeed, beyond their physical skills. In 2017, BCB’s Danny Rockett did this in-depth interview with Baker that’s worth a listen.
He’s young and like Hottovy, could relate to modern players. Yet he has excellent insights into the game, and like Joe Maddon, is a former catcher. He’s also got connections with the front office from his current role.
Baker could become a good manager someday, I think. This would be a good first step for him.
I wrote about this possibility in October. Scioscia stepped down as Angels manager at the end of 2018, but he and Joe Maddon go back a long ways. Maddon was bench coach for the Angels under Scioscia from 2000 through 2005.
People ask, “Why would Scioscia want to be a bench coach when he’s been top banana for almost 20 years?”
I’d answer, “Why not?” Why not return the favor to a friend? Maybe Scioscia would want to stay in baseball and not have the pressure of being a manager.
The other side to this is that Scioscia’s home is in the Los Angeles area and has been for many years, going back to his playing days with the Dodgers. He might not want to relocate.
Here’s another former manager who might want to stay connected with the game as a bench coach. Farrell was a Theo Epstein hire as Red Sox pitching coach in 2007. He served in that capacity for four seasons before leaving to become Blue Jays manager. He’s also been a director of player development (Indians, 2001-06).
Farrell also has two sons working for the Cubs. Jeremy Farrell is minor league field coordinator for the Cubs, and Shane Farrell is an area scout. As you surely know, Luke Farrell pitched for the Cubs last year until claimed by the Angels on waivers. (FWIW, Farrell was DFAd recently by the Angels and I would not be surprised to see the Cubs give him a NRI to spring training.)
Blanco was a popular Cubs catcher from 2005-08 and the team’s quality control coach from 2015-17, until Dave Martinez offered him the position as bullpen coach with the Nationals, where he currently serves.
As a native Spanish speaker, Blanco would be able to easily communicate with the many Spanish-speaking players in the organization, and perhaps help out with catching as well.
Hiring him, of course, would be dependent on the Nats being willing to let him go, although teams rarely stand in the way of a coach getting a promotion.
These are just four suggestions; the Cubs are likely considering others. Perhaps you have someone you’d like to see as Cubs bench coach. In any case, they really should fill this position fairly quickly.
The Cubs new bench coach should be...
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