June 23, 2024

As Cubs pivot off Shohei Ohtani’s decision, Craig Counsell will impact what comes next 

It’s time for the Chicago Cubs to return to work after Shohei Ohtani signed a 10-year, $700 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a workforce that received 100 video games throughout what was primarily a bridge season to get to the Japanese celebrity. After a lot misdirection and misinformation on X, previously Twitter, Ohtani picked the West Coast workforce with probably the most cash and the perfect platform to construct a legacy as the best baseball participant ever. The wealthy get richer.

Craig Counsell appears at it like a puzzle to resolve. His new offseason routine includes going to Wrigley Field about as soon as every week. The proximity to his household’s Wisconsin residence was a part of the enchantment when he determined to leap from the Milwaukee Brewers to the big-market workforce 90 miles south, a call that angered his hometown followers and shocked his outdated boss. Though he appeared stunned by the blowback from that call, he made it realizing he would have way more assets at his disposal and a a lot wider vary of potentialities.

Counsell and Cubs officers are nonetheless within the getting-to-know-you section of their partnership. With a Notre Dame diploma, two World Series rings as a participant, expertise in Milwaukee’s entrance workplace and a five-year, $40 million contract, Counsell can — and possibly ought to — weigh in on all points of baseball operations. If all the things was going so nice in Wrigleyville, then the Cubs wouldn’t have missed the playoffs by one sport and fired David Ross. The Cubs do, nevertheless, have a nucleus of major-league expertise, a high farm system, monetary flexibility and the highest-paid supervisor within the sport.

“I’m the outside eyes,” Counsell stated. “I have opinions and I’m going to share them. I think that’s healthy. That’s why I’m here — to try to help the Cubs win games — but you try to do that by making things better in every possible way you can.”

The Cubs, like most groups, didn’t make a splash throughout final week’s Winter Meetings, which had been tied up by Ohtani’s deliberate, secretive course of. Even with out an Instagram announcement from Ohtani, there were hints that the Cubs had already started to pivot in Nashville. From the beginning, it felt like a protracted shot that the Cubs would provide Ohtani the largest participant contract in sports activities historical past and make an inseparable reference to an inscrutable character who enjoys residing in Southern California.

The San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays may view Bellinger as a part of their fallback plans. Boras may market shoppers who would match with the Cubs’ rational method to free brokers. Left-handed pitcher Jordan Montgomery, who helped the Texas Rangers win the World Series, turned ineligible for a qualifying provide when he was traded midseason, that means his subsequent contract received’t price draft-pick compensation. Gold Glove third baseman Matt Chapman is the kind of two-way participant the Cubs have favored throughout this cycle of signing Seiya Suzuki and Dansby Swanson and reaching contract extensions with Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ.

Even with Stroman’s All-Star first half (and eight.31 ERA after the London Series) and Bellinger acting at an MVP stage for months (earlier than a dip in September), the Cubs nonetheless weren’t ok. With darkish hair and a slender construct, Counsell appears youthful than his age, 53, and taller than the stoic determine often seen on TV, staring out on the discipline from the dugout. He can come throughout as unassuming, curious and sarcastic, mixing into the background of the workforce’s Waveland Avenue workplace constructing.

“There’s a big cube farm with all of our R&D guys,” Cubs common supervisor Carter Hawkins stated. “I literally walked by and there’s somebody sitting there with his glasses and hat on. I was like, ‘Who’s our new R&D guy?’ And it was Craig. He was on the computer sitting next to our analysts and fitting in perfectly.”

“He was wearing a hoodie and Jordans,” Cubs president Jed Hoyer stated. “He had glasses on, and I literally thought it was an R&D guy for a second. It was awesome. He played 17 years in the big leagues.”

No element is outwardly too small when Counsell talks about stacking one good choice on high of one other, which is similar metaphor Hoyer used at first of this rebuild. One of the primary issues Counsell talked about, in keeping with Hawkins, was “I don’t like this interface” on a specific program and “I don’t understand why this is displayed this way.”

“Look, if you are in one place for a long time, it’s almost like there’s a part of it where you’re learning a different language,” Counsell stated. “In terms of just the information systems that a team uses, it’s a different language. Just learning to speak that language a little bit and learning to read that, it’s hard, I will tell you that. Because you want to speak the same language that everybody is speaking in how we do evaluations, how we consider player development, things like that. So that’s the part of getting up to speed. It does not happen overnight.”

Counsell’s affect and preferences are new variables because the Cubs scout their very own personnel, prioritize free brokers and put valuations on prospects for trades. Hoyer described Counsell as a “great baseball mind,” one of many sport’s uncommon leaders who may have taken the trail to turning into a workforce president or a discipline supervisor. The Cubs aren’t working a small-market workforce, however Counsell’s experiences in Milwaukee give him a special lens to view potential transactions and strategies for establishing lineups and sustaining a pitching workers.

“As a manager on the other side, you have a pretty good sense of the core of the big-league team,” Counsell stated. “Moving yourself past the core of the big-league team to get to understand important prospects on the team, that’s probably been the part that you spend some time learning. Even (during) the Winter Meetings, it’s really familiarizing yourself with how the organization talks about those players.

“That’s an important part because when you get to spring training, we’re not making decisions on Dansby Swanson. But you are going to make decisions on some of those important players that are kind of knocking on the door. So getting a good feel for those players is almost more critical at this time of the year.”

If Counsell didn’t assume the Cubs had been severe about profitable the World Series, he may’ve gone to work for Steve Cohen’s New York Mets and reunited with former Brewers govt David Stearns. Ohtani alone wouldn’t have made the Cubs a surefire playoff workforce subsequent season, particularly if he can’t pitch till 2025, assuming he absolutely recovers from one other elbow surgical procedure. Counsell will have plenty of concepts about the way to get the Cubs again to October.

“All these Red Sox/Cubs people think the same way,” Hoyer stated. “It’s nice to get some people that think in a different way and have had different experiences. We can definitely learn from that. One aspect of Craig is he’s not afraid to tell us.”

(Photo of Craig Counsell: Kamil Krzaczynski / USA Today)