After unsuccessfully aiming high, the Cubs now will be searching for elusive managerial gold in their hunt for a replacement for Dale Sveum.
Their pursuit of popular Joe Girardi ended Wednesday when the Yankees announced their manager has re-signed for 4 years.
That the Yankees were able to extend Girardi, 48, that long for at least $16 million shows their faith in him as well as it convinced him not to entertain an offer from the Cubs once his current contract expired Nov. 1.
Although none of the current Cubs’ candidates have the managerial success or profile of Girardi, a former Cubs player who has won a World Series and three division titles in six seasons with the Yankees, it has become even more imperative for the Cubs to hire a leader who can convey a strong but positive message – especially to young players – with the help of a strong support staff.
Girardi’s decision to stay means the Cubs’ search could last past the World Series, though President Theo Epstein has been prepared for that scenario.
It also means that every candidate will fall under more analysis regarding their qualifications and ability to work with young players in whom the Cubs have invested heavily in hopes of sustained success.
With Girardi no longer a candidate, player development skills become more essential as many of the Cubs’ prospects aren’t expected to arrive in the majors until at least 2015.
It also could mean the Cubs may feel a stronger need for Sveum’s successor to retain at least some of the coaches.
First base coach Dave McKay was instrumental in helping Junior Lake make the transition from third base to the outfield. Pitching coach Chris Bosio, despite coping with massive turnover, supervised the development of left-handers Travis Wood and Chris Rusin and Jake Arrieta. Both could be in demand if the Cubs don’t retain them under the new manager.
Of the three publicized candidates, Manny Acta has most experience with six seasons with the Nationals (2007-09) and the Indians (2010-12), but never produced a winning year. Acta, 44, managed the Indians to a second-place finish in 2011, but was fired late the next season.
Acta’s low-key teaching style might fit well with Epstein, who prefers a “love before tough love’’ approach with the current group of Cubs’ players. Acta met with Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and assistant GM Randy Bush on Monday, but indicated in an email he understands the Cubs are looking to talk to other candidates and that he didn’t have a second interview lined up.
A.J. Hinch, 39, a Stanford graduate, has an association with Hoyer dating back to their days with the Padres, for whom he currently serves as an assistant GM and has received high marks in the scouting department.
He was thrust from director of player personnel to manager of the Diamondbacks in May 2009 despite no previous managerial experience. He compiled an 89-123 mark over part of two seasons in which his teams were in last place in the National League West, and baserunners complained on more than one occasion on the tardiness of getting signals from Hinch.
“He understands the big picture a lot better [now],” said a source familiar with Hinch’s previous struggles.
Two sources who have worked with Padres bench coach Rick Renteria as a player and coach insist he shouldn’t be overlooked as a candidate.
“He’s organized, has high energy, always thinking about the game and shows a strong work ethic,’’ said a source who worked with him with the Padres. ‘’He’s bilingual, he’s solid with middle infielders and has been extremely loyal to San Diego.
“If the Cubs move [Javier] Baez to second base, Rick would be extremely helpful with that transition.”
Renteria, 51, has managed eight seasons, most recently at Triple-A Portland in 2007.