Bombshell: Cubs Hiring Craig Counsell as Manager

In a shocking turn of events, Ken Rosenthal reports that the Cubs have hired Craig Counsell as their manager. Despite multiple public votes of confidence in David Ross, the team saw an opportunity to bring on the most sought-after free agent who doesn’t play the field. This is wild.

Outside of player acquisitions, this is as clear a sign as you’ll get that the Cubs are truly intent on going for it in a big way. I mean, unless you’re the kind of unrelenting skeptic who sees it as an indication that they’re going to try to act like the Brewers financially. But when it comes to parting ways with a skipper who had time remaining on his contract in order to hire someone widely considered the best manager in the game, the Cubs have some precedent.

Though criticism of Ross was prevalent among fans, this is less about the club’s lack of faith in him and more about the belief that Counsell is the perfect fit to lead them back to a title. That’s why the Cubs just gave him the largest managerial payday in MLB history, guaranteeing him $40 million over five years. They also did it in an incredibly stealthy manner given how difficult it is to keep these things quiet.

Following reports that the Guardians had hired Stephen Vogt and the Mets had gone with Carlos Mendoza, the thought was that Counsell would return to Milwaukee. Then came word that he was not likely to return to the Brewers, after which it circulated that he was joining a team that already had a manager in place. But the Cubs still weren’t viewed as the destination.

I still can’t get over the fact that Jed Hoyer did this all completely under the radar in the space of five days. Since the Cubs didn’t seek permission from the Brewers to speak with Counsell prior to the expiration of his contract there, everything came together after the first of the month. Knowing how easy it is to leak even the slightest hint of interest, it’s amazing that no one knew anything prior to all the information exploding at once.

When you think about it, their roof renovations were really the only indication that they were doing anything to woo Counsell. Seriously though, I love what this move says about the Cubs’ plans for the rest of the offseason.

Ed. note: The Mets reportedly made a big run at Counsell and the Brewers also offered him a contract that would have made him one of the highest-paid managers in the game. Money obviously talks and the Cubs may very well have blown everyone away with their offer, but Counsell surely also wanted to be assured of their commitment to winning.

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