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Managerial prospects from playoff teams: 4 coaches the Cubs could be targeting

The Cubs are interviewing in-house guys. But they’re also looking outside.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs are moving “with all deliberate speed,” as the saying goes, in their search for a new manager.

Here are the four announced candidates:

Mark Loretta, who just completed his first season as the Cubs’ bench coach, interviewed for the manager’s job Thursday.

Next week, Joe Girardi, David Ross and Will Venable are on the interview list.

But during his season-ending news conference last Monday, Theo Epstein noted there would be a “broad search,” and dropped this hint:

Epstein on Monday said the Cubs are interested in at least one member of a playoff team’s staff.

Well now, that’s intriguing. We can be reasonably certain that this man, or men, were not on the staffs of the Brewers or Athletics, the wild-card game losers, or their names might already be made public and interviews set up.

I went through the coaching staffs of the eight teams now remaining in the postseason. There are, interestingly enough, quite a few former Cub players and coaches on those staffs: Ozzie Timmons (Rays first base coach), Larry Rothschild (Yankees pitching coach), Mike Harkey (Yankees bullpen coach), James Rowson (Twins hitting coach), Dave Martinez (Nationals manager), Henry Blanco (Nationals bullpen coach), Mark Prior (Dodgers bullpen coach) and Rick Kranitz (Braves pitching coach).

Only one of those names sticks out to me as a potential Cubs managerial candidate and I’ll get back to him later.

First, there have been published reports that Astros bench coach Joe Espada might be a candidate. Espada, a native of Puerto Rico who turned 44 in August, was a coach in the Marlins organization from 2006-13, including the last four years of that as their third-base coach. He and former Cubs coach Brandon Hyde worked together there for several seasons. After that he became a special assistant in the Yankees front office and was their third-base coach from 2015-17 (under Girardi!) before becoming the Astros bench coach for 2018.

Honestly, apart from his background above, I don’t know much about Espada. He’s got extensive coaching experience and is bilingual, which is an asset.

The other name that stuck out to me in going over these coaching staffs is Josh Bard, currently the Yankees bench coach under Aaron Boone.

Bard, who will turn 42 in March, was a big-league catcher for 10 seasons (2002-11), including a couple of brief stints with the Red Sox while Theo Epstein was GM there. After his playing career ended he joined the Dodgers as a special assistant, eventually becoming their bullpen coach in 2016. He’s spent the last two years with the Yankees.

Bard intrigues me because that Yankees staff has done a tremendous job getting the most out of players who were thought of as “nothing special” before they came to New York and had to fill in for various injured Yankees. Luke Voit, Mike Tauchman, Giovanny Urshela and Mike Ford are examples of players who were afterthoughts before they filled in for injured players in New York. That has to be at least partly due to the efforts of the coaching staff. It might be worth having one of those guys on board.

The man on the list of former Cubs on current postseason staffs who I think might be an attractive managerial candidate is Henry Blanco. He’s a popular former Cub who was a member of the 2016 World Series champions coaching staff. He spent three seasons (2015-17) as the Cubs’ quality assurance coach (one of that coach’s duties is looking at video to help determine whether the manager calls for a review, in case you were wondering) before being hired in Washington as bullpen coach under Martinez in 2018. Blanco turned 48 in August and, of course, is bilingual.

Lastly, could the Cubs want to make history repeat by hiring yet another Rays manager? Kevin Cash could be an attractive candidate once the Rays are out of the postseason. The issue with Cash is that he signed a contract extension through 2024 last fall. The Cubs would likely have to give the Rays compensation, and likely players and not just cash, to hire Cash.

Those are a few names from outside the Cubs organization that could possibly be intriguing to Theo Epstein as he searches for the next Cubs manager. There could be others, too. On the other hand, there’s this:

Key takeaway from that tweet: “One thing: Cubs appear likely to stay in-house”. I tend to agree. As always, we await developments.