Could unsung Quade win Cubs managerial sweepstakes?
Mike Quade has gone from a long shot to a solid possibility as Cubs manager
Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez is ready to leave Boston, says CC Sabathia
Arizona's hiring of former San Diego GM Kevin Towers has a twisted backstory
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.''
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