The search for Bob Brenlys replacement is coming into focus. Their next television analyst might have more name recognition and staying power than any free agent the Cubs will sign this offseason.
With interviews scheduled to begin this week, sources have identified five contenders for the job: Dan Plesac; Rick Sutcliffe; Eric Karros; Todd Hollandsworth; and Gary Matthews.
Plesac was considered a frontrunner from the moment Brenly announced he was returning to the Arizona Diamondbacks to work a reduced schedule on Fox Sports Arizona and national games for Fox Sports.
Before joining the launch of MLB Network, Plesac made a favorable impression as a pre- and postgame analyst for Cubs broadcasts on Comcast SportsNet. He also played with future Cubs manager Dale Sveum before spending two seasons on the North Side (1993 and 1994).
The issue is that Plesac recently signed an extension with MLB Network, though the Northwest Indiana native could be interested in returning home.
Sutcliffe is a big personality who recently told the Chicago Tribune that hes under contract with ESPN for one more year. Hes viewed as a real long shot, because the sense is that he would have to do more work and travel for less money after making national appearances on ESPN.
Sutcliffe the National Leagues Cy Young Award winner in 1984 also enjoys going to Cubs camp in Arizona as an instructor for spring training.
While working the World Series, Karros told the Chicago Sun-Times that hes not blocked contractually, and revealed that he was once approached about replacing the late Ron Santo on WGN Radio after No. 10s death in December 2010.
Karros wasnt interested in the job that went to Keith Moreland, but this is a different story. Karros only spent one season on the North Side, but 2003 was an unforgettable year, and hes still remembered as a go-to guy for the media in that clubhouse.
Karros went to UCLA and does television work around the Los Angeles Dodgers and national games on Fox.
Hollandsworth the pre- and postgame analyst on Comcast SportsNet has kept up his profile nationally with MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM. Hollandsworth has filled in for Brenly before, around the All-Star break, when Brenly would go watch his son Michael play for a Cubs affiliate in the minor-league system.
As a color commentator for the Philadelphia Phillies, Matthews already knows the day-to-day demands of the job. Sarge played for the Cubs (1984-1987), and coached on Dusty Bakers staff (2003-2006), so he also understands the market.
Brenly was a WGN employee and drew praise for the way he mixed in music, pop culture, in-game strategy and pointed criticism while developing a real chemistry with play-by-play man Len Kasper across the last eight seasons.
WGN is expected to take the lead in this round of negotiations, with the Cubs having their say and Comcast SportsNet giving input.
The Cubs will be looking to cash in once their television contract with WGN expires after the 2014 season. Last year that didnt prevent Kasper from getting an extension through 2016, and they would presumably want to build their broadcasting team for whatever shape their next television deal takes.