Cubs ready to reach out to estranged icon Ryne Sandberg
By GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org October 12, 2011 10:34PM
The Cubs will try to renew ties with former great Ryne Sandberg.
Updated: November 16, 2011 3:23PM
Now that chairman Tom Ricketts has pulled off the biggest coup in recent Cubs history, could his next trick be to pull a Hall of Famer out of a hat?
With sources saying Wednesday that a deal is done with former Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, pending player and/or cash compensation, estranged icon Ryne Sandberg could be the next big name in the organization’s sights.
Sources close to the Cubs, along with those close to Sandberg, have said in recent weeks that they expect a reconciliation this offseason. Although the sources said the Cubs hadn’t talked to Sandberg about it as of Wednesday, that’s expected to change quickly once Epstein is officially in place.
That process appears to have cleared every major hurdle except compensation for the Red Sox, sources said, with Epstein agreeing to a five-year deal worth almost $20 million.
Working out the details of a compensation package of prospects and/or cash could push a formal announcement into next week, suggested one source.
After that: Sandberg?
The Ricketts family ownership made it clear, even as Sandberg left the organization a year ago when he lost the Cubs’ managing job to Mike Quade, that they hoped to renew ties with the Hall of Famer.
And Sandberg is no stranger to Epstein, who interviewed him for Boston’s Class AAA managing job in Pawtucket last year. Sandberg turned down the job, having already all but committed to the AAA job at Lehigh Valley with his original organization, Philadelphia.
Coincidentally, Epstein was in attendance a month ago to evaluate potential call-ups when Lehigh Valley swept Pawtucket in the International League playoffs.
Whether Sandberg would be a candidate for the Cubs’ managing job — still held by Quade — or a prominent spot on the coaching staff is unclear.
“He’s got to be in the conversation,’’ one Cubs source said of a potential managing spot. “Maybe last year wasn’t his time. It seems like this year might be the time for Ryno.’’
Sources close to Sandberg, who did not immediately return messages, said he has been open to returning to the Cubs since Jim Hendry was fired as GM over the summer, and one source suggested he would be willing to accept a coaching job on the big-league staff.
The same sources said he had initially vowed to stay away from team functions such as Cubs Convention, for which he was a conspicuous no-show last January.
Sandberg spent the last six seasons as a successful minor-league manager, including the last three at the AAA level, including a 2010 Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year season.
More than a week ago, Sandberg’s name surfaced in early reports out of Boston as a possible replacement for outgoing Red Sox manager Terry Francona. And Philadelphia officials said they expect him to be sought for interviews this winter.
“He did a great job with us here,’’ Pat Gillick, a senior adviser in the Phillies’ front office, said early last week. “I think he’d make somebody a fine manager.’’
Addressing the Cubs’ managerial situation and coaching staff will be among the first orders of business for Epstein, regardless of where Sandberg fits into that mix.
Quade is under contract for one more year, along with three of his coaches: hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, bench coach Pat Listach and bullpen coach Lester Strode. The rest have contracts that run through the end of this month.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time. We’ll see how it plays out,’’ Quade said during an MLB Network Radio interview Wednesday — echoing similar comments made as the season ended two weeks ago. He did not immediately return a phone message Wednesday.
If Quade is replaced after a fifth-place finish in his first full season as manager — as insiders anticipate — Sandberg could be joined on a potential candidate list by Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale.
Hale, 50, is a Chicago native and well-regarded potential manager who could become available if the Red Sox pass him over for their vacancy because of guilt-by-association fallout from Francona’s ugly ending in Boston. Francona, once considered a possible package-deal component of an Epstein hiring, is not a likely candidate, sources say.