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Cubs dismiss tampering allegations with Joe Maddon deal

PHOENIX — Cubs officials and the agent for new manager Joe Maddon had swift responses Monday to Major League Baseball’s investigation into tampering allegations made by the Tampa Bay Rays.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” agent Alan Nero said. “To me, it’s embarrassing. And it’s actually defamation of character.”

For the last two weeks, the Rays have leaked their belief that the Cubs communicated with Maddon’s camp while Maddon was still under contract with the Rays and negotiating a potential extension.

Maddon suddenly became a free agent late last month when he exercised an opt-out clause that was triggered by then-GM Andrew Friedman’s departure.

About a week later, the Cubs fired manager Rick Renteria with two years left on his contract and signed Maddon to a five-year, $25-million deal.

“We welcome the MLB investigation,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said. “As we said last week, there was no tampering whatsoever. I’d rather they investigate so we can clear our names and move on from this quickly. We’re giving our full cooperation.”

MLB officials say tampering allegations are not uncommon. They’re also hard to prove. Making the case more difficult for the Rays is the fact Maddon, according to sources, proposed an extension with the Rays worth roughly half the annual average the Cubs eventually paid, and the Rays didn’t accept.

Epstein said last week that the Cubs made sure to secure written confirmation from Major League Baseball that Maddon was free to negotiate with other teams before entering into talks.