NASHVILLE, Tenn. After more than two decades with the Houston Astros, Jim Deshaies is heading to the broadcast booth at Wrigley Field.
This hire might generate more buzz than any free agents the Cubs may sign this week during the winter meetings at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tenn. The news made its way around the sprawling hotel on Monday and across Twitter before it became official: Deshaies has agreed to a four-year deal with WGN and will be partnered with play-by-play man Len Kasper.
I cant imagine anywhere else Id rather move than with the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, Deshaies said in a statement. My family and I look forward to meeting the great, passionate fans of the Cubs and were excited at what lies ahead in Chicago.
Deshaies replaces Bob Brenly, who left for the Arizona Diamondbacks in October, and the chance to go back to his Scottsdale-area home and call games for Fox Sports Arizona as well as its national network.
WGN -- in consultation with the Cubs and Comcast SportsNet -- decided to go with an outsider after assembling several candidates who used to play on the North Side: Dan Plesac; Rick Sutcliffe; Eric Karros; Gary Matthews; and Todd Hollandsworth.
Plesac interviewed and withdrew from consideration in the middle of November, deciding to stay with MLB Network, while Sutcliffe was viewed as a long shot from the start, given his national platform on ESPN. Plesac, who grew up in Northwest Indiana, had made a good impression while doing pre- and postgame work around Cubs broadcasts on CSN.
It was very appealing, Plesac said. It was the right job at the wrong time. I signed a new five-year deal here with MLB Network. I couldnt be happier.
One X-factor in any potential negotiation was WGNs television contract, which allows the Cubs to opt out after the 2014 season. Still, in the summer of 2011, Kasper received a five-year contract extension that locked him up through the 2016 season, which puts him on the same timeline as Deshaies.
JD is universally liked and respected throughout the game, Kasper wrote in a text message. Ive always enjoyed his work from afar. He knows the club well having done 15-18 Cubs-Astros games a year and will fit in nicely. I look forward to working with him and I cant wait for spring training.
From the beginning of the search process, Deshaies was considered a strong external candidate. Insiders reminded you that Brenly didnt have many connections to the organization when he joined the broadcast team for the 2005 season. Brenly had only worked in the WGN radio booth with Harry Caray and Thom Brennaman for two years before moving to the San Francisco Giants coaching staff in 1992.
Fans enjoyed listening to Brenly, and he developed an excellent chemistry with Kasper. Brenly was willing to criticize big-money players like Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano, but he could also shift gears and talk about music and movies. Brenly and Kasper watched some bad baseball teams over the past eight seasons, but they definitely added entertainment value.
Deshaies has been a color analyst for the Astros since 1997, developing a style that sounded a lot like Brenlys approach to the games.
Deshaies has been described as someone whos comfortable talking strategy as well as pop culture. He knows pitching after throwing more than 1,500 innings during his 12 years in the big leagues, including seven with the Astros.
The Astros are splitting with Fox Sports Houston and will air games on CSN Houston in 2013, part of the sweeping changes that have recently hit the organization, from new ownership to a new front office to new uniforms to a new league.
Deshaies recently told the Houston Chronicle that he was confident he could work out a deal with the Astros if he wanted to and wasnt worried about his future.
To get a measure of how much hes respected there, just check out this headline to a story on the newspapers website, after it was reported that he had interviewed in Chicago: Say it aint so! Deshaies departure would be PR fiasco for Astros.