Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Taking Shape: The Cubs New Manager & Coaching Staff

I see things really lining up right now in the Cubs manager search and all things point toward Torey Lovullo which just happens to be my top pick for manager.  Lovullo during his playing career played all over the infield for 7 different ML teams that included playing with previous managerial candidate Sandy Alomar Jr. but we will get back to that.  In 2001 he broke into coaching as a roving coordinator with the Indians but in 2006 he became manager of the Buffalo Bison (changed locations in 2008 to Columbus and became the Clippers) which is a AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.  For the 2010 season Lovullo became the manager of the Pawtucket Red Sox where he learned a lot but struggled with a 66-78 record and failed to make the playoffs.  But regardless of record; in 2011 John Farrell named Lovullo 1stbase coach on his staff where he served for two season.  Lovullo then moved with Farrell to Boston but getting promoted to bench coach which is his position right now.  Lovullo is a great communicator, really baseball smart, and a big user of advanced statistics.  All which is shown in this Q/A with fangraphs found here.


To me Torey Lovullo is a slam dunk and a better candidate than Rick Renteria, Manny Acta, AJ Hinch, Mike Maddux, and Dave Martinez.  I think he is head and shoulders above them for various reasons stemming from working on developing players, coaching in big organizations like the Indians, Blue Jays, and now Red Sox, his alignment and philosophy on the usage of advance statistics, and compatibility with the Cubs current front office.  But what may make him a better pick is his coaching staff if he gets hired. Which if you read some links and tea leaves it is not hard to see some clear cut favorites for his staff. 


Let’s take a look at some candidates, their resumes, and my prediction on who will be on his coaching staff.


Brian Butterfield


A likely guy to be on his staff and could be managerial candidate in his own right.  Butterfield currently is the 3rd base coach for the Red Sox and Lovullo talks highly about him in the fangraphs Q/A especially in regards to defensive shifting.  But he does not have to say much because his experience speaks for itself.  He spent 5 years as a coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  He also was a minor league manager in the Yankees organization and the Columbus Clippers.  He then joined another big market team in the Blue Jays in 2002 until the end of the 2012 season.  Then as you can guess he moved to Boston as a 3rd base coach under Farrell.  Some perks of Butterfield is that he has a great reputation throughout baseball as a defensive genius where people like Orlando Hudson, Aaron Hill, and Brett Lawrie have give him credit for their defensive abilities and achievements.  Lawrie is known as one of the best defensive 3rdbaseman in the game. Hill is an above average 2nd baseman, and Orlando Hudson is one of the best defensive 2nd baseman in the past 10 years winning Gold Gloves in 2005 and 2006.  He is clearly a favorite to join Lovullo on this staff maybe even as bench coach.  Although he could fill in as bench coach on John Farrell staff if Lovullo leaves.


Sandy Alomar Jr.


He is a less obvious fit but he does have a relationship with Torey Lovullo in Cleveland both during the playing and coaching days.  Although the overlapping is obvious if you look at both their careers; assuming they have a relationship is a stretch.  But after talking to a couple of sources I have confirmed that Lovullo and Alomar Jr. both have great respect for one another, expressed interest in working together, and a spot on his team (even as bench coach) is likely.  It is also stated that Theo and Co. like the idea of a Latin influence on this team and Alomar would provide that along with the reputation of a good communicator, teacher, and youth developer. 


Joey Cora


Another smart baseball guy who is looking for a spot on a coaching staff and he should be able to find one in Chicago.  It is rumored that the front office will strongly recommend Cora for the new managers staff.  Cora has a great relationship with the Red Sox front office and has experience coaching under Ozzie Guillen which regardless of what people say is a plus. Again the Cubs want a Latin influence on this team with the amount of talent is coming up which he also provides.  I could see Cora as a base coach on the new coaching staff.


Bill Buckner


He is the most likely candidate to be promoted within the Cubs organization to the parent club.  Bill Buckner is gaining a lot of steam around baseball as a good hitting coach and young talent developer.  He has high praise from several prospects in the Cubs system as well as the front offices stamp of approval.  He will also likely be a strong recommendation from the front office to the new manager.  Plus the former Cub factor does not hurt at all.  I see him as the new hitting coach on Torey Lovullo staff.


Dave McKay


He worked wonders with Alfonso Soriano and has great respect around the game.  Again he will be another suggestion for the Cubs new manager.  This one I am less confident on than the previous suggestions because the new manager has to have some say with his staff.  But because of his experience around baseball and with this team I think he is a perfect candidate for 1st base coach again for 2014.


Chris Bosio


I am even less confident about Chris Bosio.  Although I think he did a remarkable job with the Cubs pitching staff the two years he was here the manager almost always dictates the pitching coach.  Lovullo has no prior relationship with Bosio and I am not so sure the Cubs front office would want any more ties to the last managing regime.  Kind of a toss up but I still think it is possible.  I really do not have a grasp on any other pitching coaches that Lovullo has deep connections to.


Derek Johnson


He is my wildcard on this coaching staff.  He is currently in the Cubs system as the minor league pitching coordinator.  Prior to that he spent 11 season at the Vanderbilt’s pitching/head coach where he earned National Pitching Coach of the Year in 2004 and National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2010.  Derek Johnson developed 6 big name first round draft picks named David Price, Mike Minor, Sonny Gray, Casey Weathers, Grayson Garvin, and Jeremy Sowers.  He has been a wizard with young pitchers and it known to get out the most of what he has to work with.  I am not sure if the Cubs front office would recommend or push for his hiring, if Derek would leave his position as minor league pitching coordinator, or if Theo would want to have him at the Major League level.  But one thing is for sure he would be a huge asset to this coaching staff for his knowledge and development.  For that he has to be at least a guy who will get a look.




Other Coaches


Assistant Hitting Coach:  I am unsure if the Cubs will go this route this time around but I would not be surprised if they did.  Not sure who really fits the bill here but Mariano Duncan would make a great assistant hitting coach (or just hitting coach for that matter) although I am not sure they will want to deplete their farm of the two best hitting coaches going to the parent club.  So in the end I feel this is an Unknown.


Bullpen Coach/Bullpen Catcher:  I think the Cubs should go with a former/current catcher as the bullpen coach and not a former pitcher.  I think the Cubs should hire Henry Blanco as bullpen coach.  There has been numerous GMs and media outlets including Jim Hendry and Bruce Levine that stated he would be a great coach/manager one day.  So why not bring back Greg Maddux’s personal catcher in as the bullpen coach.  I think he would do a wonderful job with the bullpen and also the Cubs would have a veteran defensive catcher that could be a mentor to Wellington Castillo (if he is not traded) to go along with Alomar.  In the end this is a big unknown but I am pretty fond of Hank White.



In the end the 2014 managerial staff will look like this:


Manager: Torey Lovullo

Bench Coach: Sandy Alomar Jr.

Pitching Coach: Unknown

Hitting Coach: Bill Buckner

Assistant Hitting Coach: Unknown

3rd base Coach: Brian Butterfield

1st base Coach: Joey Cora

Bullpen Coach: Unknown



In the end I think the Cubs front office and new manager will cut the ties to what was known as the “Dale Sveum” era. I also think Theo and Co. will get at least two of their recommendations on this coaching staff with Joey Cora and Bill Buckner. I think this is a very solid staff and the making of something really special on the north side.


Until Next Time..