BOCA RATON, Fla. – By now, the Cubs are used to paying managers not to manage for them.
But paying a manager’s salary for a guy to coach on the White Sox staff?
“Rick will buy me a drink at some point or something,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said of Sox GM Rick Hahn. “Yeah, it’s a little strange.”
Strange as in: A year after being kicked to the curb by the Cubs when Joe Maddon became a sudden free agent, former Cubs manager Rick Renteria joins manager Robin Ventura’s staff on the South Side as the Sox bench coach, the Sox announced Tuesday.
He replaces Mark Parent, who was fired at the end of the season.
“I’m really happy for him,” said Hoyer, the Cubs’ point man when they hired Renteria from Hoyer’s old San Diego Padres staff two years ago to manage the Cubs. “I just hope this starts his path back to being a manager. I think he’ll be a very good one once he gets another opportunity.
“Ricky had a good year for us. And I don’t feel like we treated him entirely fairly.”
Renteria, 53, joins the White Sox a year after the Cubs praised his work – then fired him with two years left on his contract to pounce on the chance to hire Maddon after Maddon exercised an opt-out clause in his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays.
“Obviously we’re thrilled with Joe and we had a wonderful year,” Hoyer said. “But Ricky deserved better. I’m glad he gets a chance with the White Sox.”
Renteria, a former first-round draft pick and big-league infielder, declined major-league coaching offers last year.
Hahn said the Sox met with Renteria last winter to talk about possible openings before finding the right fit this time around.
“I’m not sure we could have found a better fit for us in terms of experience, intelligence, his communication skills, his baseball acumen,” Hahn said. “He’s going to help make that entire staff stronger.”
He’s already the only member of the Sox staff who can speak fluent Spanish.
“That certainly was something that was missing from our staff,” Hahn said. “Obviously, it’s one of the number of traits that he brings to the table and one I think that’s going to benefit the clubhouse.”
Renteria, one of three candidates interviewed for the job, is said to have been sensitive to the perception his desire to manage again may be considered a threat to Ventura, who has just one year left on his contract.
Hahn said that was a non-issue with the candidates interviewed, and the GM dismissed the perception of Renteria looming over Ventura’s shoulder as an organizational concern.
“Internally, we don’t get too hung up on contract status or what’s going to happen in the future,” Hahn said. “I’m more focused on putting us in the best position to win games next year and we feel this hire does that.”
And if along the way, they benefit from the fourth season out of five in which the Cubs are paying two managers (paying Dale Sveum to coach in last year’s World Series with the Royals)?
“Hey, the Cubs saved some money today,” said Hahn – the Cubs’ obligation defrayed by the Sox’ discount rate for Renteria. “So that’ll help them out in the long run.”
Not that Hoyer’s going to let Hahn get out of that drink.
“I’m just glad [Renteria’s] going to get right back on his feet, and hopefully this is a step toward being a manager again soon,” said Hoyer, who stayed in touch, mostly via text, with Renteria much of the season.
“The whole playoff run, after our wins, he would always text and say congratulations,” Hoyer said. “He’s got a big hear, and I think he was really happy for the guys he touched during the course of the season.”
Sox staff note: The Sox also announced the hiring of assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks, a former minor-league player, coach and manager, who was the Sox batboy during the Disco Demolition season of 1979.
He replaces Harold Baines, who stepped down after the season. Sparks’ father, Joe, was the White Sox’ first base coach in 1979 and managed in the Sox system from 1970-75 and again from 1977 until joining the big-league staff. Joe spent five years as a player in the Sox minor-league system.