The Cubs, from their new owner to their front-office folks, love the job that interim manager and longtime organization man Mike Quade is doing -- love it so much, in fact, that he has gone from seeming long shot to real possibility in the team's much-watched managerial derby, according to people who've talked to Cubs decisionmakers.
Cubs officials say they believe he's brought a real energy to a team that looked moribund in its last days under Lou Piniella, who left early to be with his ailing mother. The 53-year-old Quade, an unknown quantity outside the organization who is from nearby Evanston, Ill., has done it his way, with some surprising moves and a moxie (he benched star rookie Starlin Castro for losing track of the number of outs) that has paid off en route to a 19-11 record since he took over for Piniella in late August.
"He's done an outstanding job in every area on and of the field,'' Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said by phone. "We traded several players, and we had guys hurt, and he's done a nice job moving forward. He's had a very good balance of young kids and veterans. I'm very happy with him. I said he's a candidate when he took over the job. And he certainly is.''
Lest anyone thinks Cubs people are just being publicly polite or blowing smoke, know that teams aren't obligated to overplay an interim's chances (the Marlins and Mariners, for instance, are using interim managers who don't seem as likely to retain those jobs). That's not to say that Quade's a shoo-in for the coveted job. He surely has impressed his bosses -- but will that be enough to overcome Quade's nonexistent Q score?
Cubs icon Ryne Sandberg, who has been managing in their minor league system for the past four years, also is under consideration, and the Cubs are interviewing other respected candidates, including former Indians manager Eric Wedge and Nationals coach Pat Listach (Former Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly recently declined an interview, presumably after correctly assessing that his chances weren't very good). White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen recently threw his name into the hat in case things don't work out on the South Side. But Yankees manager Joe Girardi remains the big wild card here. Girardi has a World Series championship ring as a manager in addition to three as a player, and he can become a free-agent manager. At the very least, he has to be a temptation for the Cubs.
Quade (pronounced KWAH-dee) and Sandberg both make a lot of sense, though. Hiring a low-profile person such as Quade would represent a departure from the past, but Cubs people have long suggested they are looking for a "non celebrity'' to run the team after Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella produced mixed results. Baker and Piniella did better than most on the North Side, but things did not end well in either case. Sandberg is a celebrity all right, but only as a player. As a manager, he's been toiling hard in the minors and in fact is the only Hall of Famer currently working the bushes. "He's certainly a candidate, and he's done a fine job in the minor leagues the last four years,'' Hendry said.
Speaking of Quade and Sandberg, one person familiar with the Cubs' thinking said, "I think those two fit the bill as to what they're looking for. I think it's between [Quade] and Sandberg. Quade's done a nice job and he's been an organization guy. But the other guy [Sandberg] is the people's choice.''
At the very least, Quade has increased his chances from what was believed to be a long-shot hope when he started. Even if the Cubs try first for Girardi -- and it's no guarantee they will -- Quade may still wind up with the job as the prime fallback candidate. Luring someone away from the Yankees won't be easy, especially a manager who seems so entrenched in the Bronx. "I don't see (Girardi) leaving,'' another Cubs person said. Hendry understandably declined to say anything about Girardi, since he's still managing another team.
"My focus is here,'' Girardi said the other day at Yankee Stadium, meaning with the defending World Series champions. But of course, Girardi, no fool, can be expected to investigate any interesting opening even if he intends to stay. Which is what most Yankees officials think he will do. "If he's a free agent, he'll be well sought after. Anybody would have interest I would think,'' Yankees GM Brian Cashman told SI.com.
Girardi is said to be playing things close to the vest. But there are some around baseball who think the historic could be a major temptation for the Peoria, Ill.. native, who played with the Cubs after attending Northwestern. Yankees people, though, remain confident they'll hold onto Girardi, citing his excellent relationship with all his bosses, including Hal Steinbrenner, Randy Levine and Cashman. "Girardi's not going anywhere,'' said one Yankees friend of his. "[The Yankees] aren't going to let him leave.'' Girardi's family is said to love the New York area, too.
While the Cubs passed over Girardi for Piniella the last time, it wouldn't be shocking to see them make a run at him. In any case, the Yankees are expected to offer him a substantial raise from his $2.5 million salary, perhaps as much as $4.5 million. Joe Torre once made close to $7 million with the Yankees, but the word is they won't go that high this time. If the Cubs are willing to pay a lot more than $4 million, they might have a chance. But everything else being equal, it's hard imagining Girardi leaving the Yankees.
And that might be good news for Quade.
Catcher Jorge Posada is the only one of the Core Four Yankees with a contract for next year. But he doesn't expect to be the last Yankee standing.
"It'll get resolved,'' Posada said of the upcoming negotiations for his good friends and longtime teammates Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. "Hopefully, everything will get resolved.''
"Of course, we'd like to have them back,'' GM Brian Cashman said about Jeter and Rivera before changing the subject.
As for Andy Pettitte, word around the team -- as usual -- is that it's 50-50 whether he retires or returns for another year.
Posada said, "I hope so. He had a pretty good year. He's still, for me, one of the best big-game pitchers.''
Victor Martinez will leave the Red Sox after this year, his good friend CC Sabathia, the Yankees pitcher, predicted.
Boston has offered Martinez a two-year deal that would constitute a raise from the $7.5 million he made this year (one executive estimated the offer at about $22 million over two years, but that is unconfirmed). Sabathia said, however, that he believes Martinez wants a four-year deal as a free agent and is bound to leave Boston.
The Red Sox are one of the teams that believe Martinez remains viable as a catcher. He has shown improvement under catching tutor Gary Tuck, so there probably will be at least a couple more teams in the mix. "What he gets will depend on how many teams believe he can catch,'' one AL executive said. "He seems to be on a salary drive lately, the way he's hitting.''
Among other potential Boston free agents, David Ortiz, is viewed -- at least by competitors -- as likely to wind up back in Boston. "I don't think he hits the market,'' said an executive for another team.
The Red Sox hold a 2011 option for $12.5 million on Ortiz, who recently was quoted as saying he'd prefer a multiyear deal. Executives say the the Sox might offer a two-year contract, but for less the $12.5 million per year. If Ortiz doesn't go for that, competing execs believe Boston will just pick up his option, which shows the incredible comeback Ortiz made from his horrific season-opening slump.
Manager Terry Francona stuck with Ortiz when he batted .143 with one home run and four RBIs in April. "Our best option was Ortiz swinging the bat well,' said Francona in explaining why he didn't abandon Big Papi. Boston's a tough town, but Francona was surprised at how early calls came to for Ortiz to be benched. "People were calling for it after three at-bats. It was ridiculous,'' Francona said.
The Red Sox would like Adrian Beltre back, but don't expect a quick signing. They see Beltre, who is represented by Scott Boras, seeking to match the $64 million, five-year contract he got in Seattle, and a lengthy negotiation in any event. The Angels and Tigers (who have free agent Brandon Inge at third base) are among other teams that could try for Beltre.
Another option for Boston that's been bandied about would be to move the versatile Kevin Youkilis from first base to third. Youkilis looks like he's put on a few pounds while on the disabled list, but Francona said there are no worries about that. Said Francona, "He's a diligent worker.''
It was interesting to see the Diamondbacks hire Kevin Towers, the former general manager of the Padres, as their new GM, simply because the situation involves a lot of folks with ties to both of those NL West teams.
Towers was fired in San Diego by Jeff Moorad, the managing partner who went from Arizona to San Diego and happens to have been Diamonbacks president DerrickHall's old boss in Arizona. Hall obviously had a different opinion of Towers, as it was Hall and Moorad's old Arizona partner, Ken Kendrick, who hired Towers in Arizona. Towers may already be eyeing some high-ranking front office folks now working for San Diego, possibly including Fred Uhlman Jr. and Randy Smith.
Also sitting in on the GM interviews in Arizona was former Diamondbacks star Luis Gonzalez, who was once a client of Moorad. (Moorad started as an agent, which is how he first became acquainted with Towers the GM.) Gonzalez is said to be a fan of Towers, though ultimately it was Hall and Kendrick who made the final call.
Towers succeeded for 14 years in San Diego with such "old school'' methods as using superior scouting to find undervalued major league ballplayers. Under Moorad, the Padres favor newer, different front-office methods. San Diego recently hired former Diamondbacks exec and manager A.J. Hinch to head its scouting department. Hinch is very bright, but the move has again upset a few from the old school. Some scouts say Hinch isn't qualified since his experience isn't in scouting. Hinch's hiring as Diamondbacks manager in 2009, despite having never managed or coached at any level, also upset some scouts.
Folks also see Moorad possibly hiring well-respected former Arizona GM Josh Byrnes, whom he gave an eight-year extension in 2007 when he was running the Diamonbacks. Byrnes was fired (along with Hinch) on July 2 by Hall and Kendrick, in part because of his loyalty to Hinch, whom he hired in 2009. Since then, he reportedly has been interviewed by several teams.
Meanwhile, new Padres owner Moorad still has his stake in the Diamondbacks in a blind trust. He and Kendrick are in disagreement over how much that stake is worth. The team says about $17 million; Moorad says about three times that.
• While Adam Dunn has said he has hope he will re-sign with the Nationals, some see Washington not paying his price since it is focused on good defense. "He should be in the American League,'' one scout said of the career-long National Leaguer. The White Sox like him (they tried hard to land him at the deadline), but the Yankees could be a dark-horse candidate to sign him.
• The Yankees will go for Cliff Lee, of course, and the incumbent Rangers may, too. While he had a couple uncharacteristic off outings early for them, Rangers teammates are said to love his tough team-first persona.
• Manny Ramirez hasn't been a hit as the White Sox's DH but he will stay in the AL and DH next year rather than return to the National League.
• Some see the Angels responding to their rare off year by signing multiple free agents. Besides Carl Crawford and Beltre, top closer Rafael Soriano would make sense for them, according to one competing executive.
• Jeff Francoeur has provided a nice spark for the Rangers, going 11 for 29 with seven RBIs since his arrival.
• Jose Reyes expects the Mets to either pick up his $11 million option or offer him an extension. Of course. Despite his injuries, he has potential to be among baseball's best, so no way are they declining the option, which would cost $500,000.
•There has to be something beyond his play that makes Felipe Lopez so unpopular with teams. The Cardinals just released him after he spent a winter struggling to find a job and was signed at to a bargain-basement contract.
• One baseball executive took umbrage with my prediction (and the predictions of two agents and a front-office executive) that Carl Crawford would receive more as a free agent than Jayson Werth this winter, pointing out, "Teams pay for power.'' I had Crawford getting $115 million over seven years, compared to $90 million over five for Werth, who at 31 is two years older than Crawford. The exec also mentioned that Werth has 85 home runs the last three years to 39 for Crawford and a lifetime .844 OPS to Crawford's .780. Good points, but Crawford's value seems to go above his numbers when you talk to most baseball execs.
• MLB COO Bob DuPuy is in talks to leave his $6 million-a-year job. He did excellent work getting new stadiums built but other issues popped up this year, including the protracted sale of the Texas Rangers. MLB executive vice presidents Rob Manfred and Tim Brosnan are internal candidates for more responsibility.
• Stan Kasten, who left his job as president of the Nats, declined to talk about why he left. He had interviewed in Toronto about a year ago, but Paul Beeston is entrenched in that job now. There's no reason to believe Kasten is done with baseball.
• Sabathia said he thinks the Cy Young award should just be decided by a computer program that would analyze the statistics rather than have voters decide it since voters can't possibly see all the games. However, he wouldn't commit to whether he thinks it should be Felix Hernandez, David Price or himself. There are several fine candidates, including Clay Buchholz, JeredWeaver, Jon Lester and Trevor Cahill, but most believe it will come down to Sabathia, Price or Hernandez.
• In NickCafardo's excellent Sunday column in the Boston Globe, he noted that Carl Pavano is tied with Roy Halladay for fewest pitches per inning at 14.1. Pavano set a record for fewest pitches for the Yankees in his tenure there over a four-year period ... but for different reasons.
• I don't think there will be any complaints about KenRosenthal's revelation that MikeScioscia's 10-year deal is for $50 million, especially considering that that was Gary MatthewsJr.'s exact contract there.
• Good for the Yankees to invite Joe Torre to the George Steinbrenner monument ceremony. But some Yankees people weren't too upset to see Joe Torre blow up his own Mets mangerial candidacy by implying on WFAN he's interested in the Mets position while JerryManuel's still employed in that job.