David Ross dodged the question about who would serve as his bench coach next season, saying that he’d only recently gotten comfortable enough in his own role to start reaching out to members of Joe Maddon’s staff. But in addressing his own weaknesses later in Monday’s introductory presser, he talking about needing an experienced lieutenant to help him with in-game decisions. That seems like a clear indication of at least one change being made with the coaching staff.
Theo said he and Ross will work through coaching staff decisions immediately. Plan is to retain some of last year's staff, but Ross has some people from the outside who Cubs may add to the fold.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) October 28, 2019
Mark Loretta, who just completed his first year on the bench under Maddon, has very little experience and was also the first candidate interviewed for the managerial opening. Having a greenhorn in that role is fine when he’s working with a seasoned skipper, just not as much so with a new guy who may need a more decisive and commanding presence backing him up.
Whether it was a matter of players not taking to an interloper or the first-time coach being a little reticent, Loretta apparently wasn’t able to have much of an impact on the team’s accountability. He spoke after his interview about a lack of structure when it came to practice and game plans, which seemed critical of either Maddon or himself. Maybe both.
For those reasons and many others, there’s a strong sense that Ross would prefer to bring in someone with whom he’s more familiar. While our list from the other day was meant more for entertainment purposes, the idea that he’d want someone who’s been around the block and dealt with a lot of different situations still holds water.
As for the other positions on the staff, it’s easy to see the Cubs standing pat with Tommy Hottovy and Anthony Iapoce. Both were front office hires last season and came to Chicago as the third men in as many years at their respective positions. There’s something to be said for continuity, and neither was actively harmful in a way that necessitates change.
Brian Butterfield earned a reputation as one of baseball’s premier infield coaches prior to joining the Cubs, but the team’s defense was one of the biggest pain points last season. So too was their baserunning, though to what extent you can chalk that up to Butterfield’s role as third base coach is really just a matter of how hard you want to try.
He was in that same role with the Red Sox when David Ross was there as a player in 2013 and ’14, so the two know each other from that period. The nature of their relationship may determine whether or not Butter is back for 2020.
Will Venable is another question mark, though you have to assume the front office would want to have him back if he wants to return. Likewise with Mike Borzello, whose analytical mind and feel for the game have been a huge boon to the Cubs in his time there. His work with the pitchers and catchers, not to mention his strategic acumen, would serve Ross well.
With an exception or three for some people from the outside Ross is really adamant about adding to the fold, It’s entirely possible that the coaching staff will remain largely intact for next season. Several decisions may be more in the hands of the existing coaches themselves, particularly those who were front office picks in the first place.
However things end up, it sounds like Ross and the Cubs are looking to make those picks as quickly as possible. With free agency set to begin before long, having the staff settled means one less thing to worry about as the 2020 roster comes together.