It’s been four weeks since Theo Epstein sat inside Wrigley Field’s interview room/dungeon. The Cubs president had fired his handpicked manager after a 96-loss season that revealed communication issues and concerns about player development.
“We know exactly what we’re looking for,” Epstein said, “and I think we’re going to find it.”
The Cubs are still searching for Dale Sveum’s replacement and this week could be a turning point as they continue to do background work on candidates and make follow-up calls.
Rick Renteria and A.J. Hinch are not heading to Chicago for another round of interviews, sources familiar with the situation said Sunday night, but the two San Diego Padres are in play.
Sources have sent mixed signals about a third Padres employee, Brad Ausmus, whose name has been floated since Sveum Watch in late September. Ausmus could be the stealth candidate, as the ex-catcher educated at Dartmouth College who played 18 years in the big leagues.
[STATE OF THE CUBS: Manager and the World Series closers]
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer – who once had the same job in San Diego – hired Ausmus to be a special assistant in 2010. But Ausmus’ limited managing experience only came with Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic.
Still, Ausmus is said to be "a factor."
Renteria, the Padres bench coach, has already met with two groups of team officials as the Cubs have involved multiple members of the baseball operations department in the process. Renteria had been recovering from a hip procedure in California and also interviewed with the Seattle Mariners.
Eric Wedge walked away from that job after clashing with the Seattle front office. Wedge had a .438 winning percentage in three seasons with the Mariners, but also helped rebuild the Cleveland Indians, guiding them to one win away from the American League pennant in 2007.
Wedge – who’s had extensive phone conversations about the job with the Cubs front office – will formally interview this week in Chicago.
Hinch, the Padres executive, would like another shot in the dugout. He got fired after an uninspiring run (89-123) managing the Arizona Diamondbacks during parts of the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
Hinch – another ex-catcher who has a degree in psychology from Stanford University – built a good reputation as the Diamondbacks farm director. That experience could be valuable as the Cubs try to incorporate young talent in 2014 and beyond.
With an if-necessary Game 7 scheduled for Halloween night at Fenway Park, Torey Lovullo will be available soon. The Cubs are interested in talking with the Boston Red Sox bench coach after the World Series. Lovullo worked with Epstein in 2010 as the manager of Boston’s Triple-A affiliate.
Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Dave Martinez knows the market after playing for the Cubs and White Sox and has spent six seasons next to Joe Maddon, who might be the best manager in the game.
But Martinez hasn’t managed before and doesn’t have history with this front office. ESPN analyst Manny Acta – who also interviewed for the job – has not been viewed as a primary candidate.
Epstein has said he expects a new hire in place by the time the GM meetings begin Nov. 11 in Orlando, Fla., where the Cubs can lay groundwork for the deals that will shape the next manager’s roster. We’ll see if the front office that shocked everyone last winter by getting so deep in negotiations with Anibal Sanchez – and handing Edwin Jackson a $52 million contract – has another surprise in store.