Monday, January 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Chicago Cubs hire former Rays manager Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon's exodus from Tampa Bay to Chicago became official Friday, as the Cubs, after firing Rick Renteria, announced plans to introduce Maddon on Monday as their next manager.

But there are still some messy details — besides learning how close to the rumored $25 million, five-year target deal Maddon got — to sort through.

The Rays remain convinced that the Cubs enticed Maddon to opt out of the final year of his contract last week rather than reaching out afterward. As a result, they are still considering filing tampering charges or a complaint to get Major League Baseball to investigate the matter, with any potential compensation (A fine? A player?) determined by the commissioner's office.

The Cubs are apparently at least sensitive to the claim. In a statement from team president Theo Epstein they offered unusual detail about how they "learned" Oct. 23 that Maddon "had become a free agent" and "confirmed the news" with MLB — as it was not made public until the next day — then decided "to pursue" him. Agent Alan Nero said there was "absolutely" no tampering, that Maddon merely took advantage of a clause that allowed him a 14-day window to opt out once executive vice president Andrew Friedman left for the Dodgers.

In Maddon, Epstein said, they saw someone "who may be as well-suited as anyone in the industry to manage the challenges that lie ahead of us."

There is also some backlash and awkwardness in baseball circles over how the Cubs treated Renteria — and how Maddon looked in essentially taking his job.

The Cubs at season's end had lauded Renteria for his work and said they expected him back for a second season, but Epstein acknowledged that Maddon's unexpected availability created a "unique opportunity." That left them facing what Epstein termed "a clear dilemma: be loyal to Rick or be loyal to the organization. In this business of trying to win a world championship for the first time in 107 years, the organization has priority over any one individual. We decided to pursue Joe." He also said a team official flew to California on Oct. 24 to tell Renteria of their intentions.

Though Maddon might shuffle the staff in Chicago, the Rays don't plan to let any of their coaches — signed through next season 2015 — join him. The one exception could be bench coach Dave Martinez, who will be a strong candidate to replace Maddon with the Rays but likely could opt to leave if he doesn't get the job.

Also Friday:

• The Rays made arguably their easiest offseason decision, picking up infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist's $7.5 million option.

Zobrist, 33, was voted the Don Zimmer MVP award by the Tampa Bay BBWAA chapter for his 2014 performance, hitting .272 with 10 homers, 52 RBIs, 34 doubles, 10 stolen bases, 83 runs, 75 walks and a .354 on-base percentage. He started games at five positions plus DH.

Zobrist, who will start his 10th season with the Rays, said he was "absolutely ecstatic" with the decision. "The fact that I have been here as long as I have makes this very special to me," he said.

Rays vice president Chaim Bloom, in a statement, said Zobrist "has been integral" to their success and that "his skill and versatility on the field, combined with his character and selflessness, make him the ultimate team player." The team has until Monday to decide on a $2.5 million option on reliever Joel Peralta.

• The Rays are expected to identify initial candidates to replace Maddon next week. One possible candidate might have dropped out, as former Rays outfielder and one-time consultant Gabe Kapler is expected to take a job with the Dodgers, joining former Rays baseball chief Andrew Friedman. Kapler most recently has been doing TV work for Fox.

• Pre-, in- and postgame reporter Kelly Nash is leaving the Rays broadcast team on Sun Sports. Nash said it was her decision and she will seek an increased opportunity elsewhere.

Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]

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