Though nothing has been announced in terms of the Cubs’ coaching staff under new manager David Ross, all signs point to Mark Loretta being replaced as bench coach. Ross specifically mentioned during his introductory press conference that he’d need a right-hand man who would be a step ahead of him in terms of in-game decisions, a sentiment Theo Epstein echoed during an appearance on 670 The Score earlier this week.
That doesn’t necessarily describe Loretta, who isn’t viewed as the vocal lieutenant Joe Maddon had in Dave Martinez or even Brandon Hyde. As Ross learns the ropes of his new gig, he could really benefit from someone who’s been in his shoes before and can help him navigate the ins and outs of defensive positioning and pitching changes when he’s trying to protect a late one-run lead.
We mentioned a few not-so-serious options (and one more legit possibility) last week, but one name who has risen to the top of the pile of late is John Farrell. The 57-year-old former Red Sox skipper is familiar with the Cubs front office and Ross, who played for him on the 2013 World Series team, and Bruce Levine reports that Farrell is indeed “expected to be a candidate” for the bench coach role.
In addition to those more obvious connections, Farrell’s son Jeremy is a member of the Cubs’ development staff and was recently named Assistant Director of Baseball Development. Luke Farrell was also a pitcher in the organization for a short time, so the family ties have kept the Farrell patriarch in the Cubs’ orbit for the last several years.
Though Farrell is far from over the hill and could still have the itch to manage again at some point, he’s spent the last two years as a scout for the Reds and may be content to move back into a coaching role. His familiarity with the Cubs and NL Central in general is a big plus, as is experience with the high pressure environment of a big market on the biggest stage.
All things considered, Farrell seems like a near perfect choice to come alongside a rookie manager and help him get his bearings. Another potential target with loads of experience and a feel for the team is former Cubs manager Jim Riggleman, who we had mentioned in that earlier piece. Levine mentioned Riggleman and former Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez as names to keep an eye on.
Ross could look to bring in other coaches from outside the organization, though it remains to be seen who and in what roles. Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and hitting coach Anthony Iapoce appear to be safe, but the same can’t necessarily be said for Loretta, Will Venable, or Brian Butterfield. Even though Butterfield is highly thought of around the league, the Cubs’ struggles with defense and baserunning might have them looking for a change.
However things shake out, Epstein has said that they’d like to have the staff buttoned up as quickly as possible. Expect some announcements to come soon as the Cubs prepare for what promises to be an interesting offseason.