CARLSBAD, Calif. — The Chicago Cubs have informed manager Joe Maddon they won’t be discussing a contract extension with him before next season, the fifth and final one of his current deal.
“We’re really focused on digging in and finding ways at getting the absolute most out of 2019,” team president Theo Epstein said Monday. “Joe understood. The only concern expressed is it could be a bit of a distraction at some point. I decided the best thing was to get that news out now.”
The Cubs have won the most regular-season games in baseball over the past four years, all under Maddon. But this past season ended in disappointment, as they were caught in the division by the Milwaukee Brewers, losing a tiebreaker game and then falling in the wild-card game to the Colorado Rockies the next night.
The offense was a shell of itself in the second half of the season, and Epstein stressed the front office was evaluating everything and everyone after a disappointing finish.
“We’re not running away from Joe in the least bit,” he said. “I just think, given that we all have things that we’re working on to get more out of this team, and get one game better than we were last year, this is the appropriate move.”
According to Maddon’s agent, Alan Nero, there is no issue with his client being a lame-duck manager.
“Joe is not in a hurry,” Nero said. “Joe is very comfortable. It’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen.
“Hopefully it works out that the team is going to stay together and go forward and win and it’s an obvious thing that Joe stays. … Whatever is meant to be is meant to be.”
Epstein stressed how the game has changed even since Maddon took over in 2015, and the team wants to see a few changes at the top as well.
“Is Joe Maddon capable of making some adjustments?” Epstein asked. “Absolutely. I think he’s the type of personality that’s energized by the prospect of making adjustments.”
Epstein spoke on Day 1 of the general manager meetings, addressing Maddon as well as the team’s position on shortstop Addison Russell, who was suspended for 40 games under baseball’s domestic violence policy. The team hasn’t determined if it will allow Russell to return when his suspension is up.
“We’re very engaged with Addison to verify he’s serious about self-improvement,” Epstein said. “Everything is an open question. We haven’t made any determinations. The only determination we’ve made is we have to be part of the solution both from an organizational standpoint in supporting the discipline and supporting and exploring a possible road to rehabilitation and improvement.”
Ultimately, the team is willing to take ownership of the situation.
“This incident happened on our watch,” Epstein said.
As for winter moves, Epstein stressed how much money the team puts into payroll every year without promising a huge increase. He didn’t rule anything in or out as it pertains to high-priced free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
“We’ve had a top-six payroll in each of the last three seasons,” he said. “We expect to have another top-six payroll this season and going forward. … That investment in the club by our ownership has been everything we can ask for. It’s more than enough money to win.”