Mike Quade is in as Cubs’ manager — what now?
When Lou Piniella ended his final season as manager early, most saw Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg as the frontrunner for the job with the possibility of some other proven manager stealing his chance. The scene changed a bit when interim manager Mike Quade (that’s pronounced Kwah-Dee by the way) finished the year 24-13, avoiding a disastrous sub-70 win season.
Today it was announced that Quade signed a 2-year deal to be manager of the Cubs with a club option for a third season.
At least to some point, this was a financial move. Once Eric Wedge chose Seattle over the Cubs, the low-cost veteran manager option was gone. Joe Girardi was still a possibility if they were to wait, but he would cost more than the new ownership group would be willing to spend to lure out of New York, especially if they win the World Series. After that, it essentially came down to Sandberg and Quade.
While much was made of how Sandberg ‘paid his dues’ managing in the minor leagues, Quade has spent a huge portion of his adult life managing in the minor leagues. Additionally, he gives the Cubs an ego-free manager who is just happy to be there. The owners have indicated they would like to cut payroll going into next year. While the team could still sign a slugger like Adam Dunn while moving Kosuke Fukudome and achieve just that, they could end up with a similar or inferior team to this year’s squad. Any big-time manager such as Girardi would likely desire a reloaded Cubs team, which may not be in the immediate plans.
The two-year contract with a club option for a third fits well within the new timeline for an infusion of youth. The Cubs will probably have at least four starting position players age 28 or younger: Starlin Castro, Blake Dewitt, Tyler Colvin and Geovany Soto. Beyond that, there are two large, difficult to move contracts in Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano, a solid stop-gap solution in Marlon Byrd, and a gaping hole at first base. There is no current internal option for first base besides a 31 year-old Micah Hoffpauir or resigning veteran Xavier Nady, so that will likely be addressed through free agency.
Over the next two years, though, other talent will trickle into the majors in the form of Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson. What Quade does with this mix of young and old will determine his fate going into 2013. I believe these two years will be an experiment for the new ownership in having most additions come from within the system. If it doesn’t work out after two years, they hope they will have the opportunity to reload through free agency with a star manager in 2013, much like the club did prior to 2007.
Based on this analysis, Quade could be destined to fail unless he gets some improvement from young arms in the bullpen and players such as Tyler Colvin. However, a full year of a rejuvenated Carlos Zambrano, a return to form of Aramis Ramirez and any production at all out of first base could put this team on the fringe of contention next year. Quade will have to earn his keep, but it is not an impossible task.