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Cubs’ next manager has no idea what he’s getting into — at least until roster shakeup comes

But how much of the Cubs’ 84-win team will be left by spring training? Will the $43 million closer still be around, or even the 2016 MVP?

Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs
How many Cubs from the championship core will still be around by spring training?
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Even if Joe Girardi gets what he’s asking for, he might not get exactly what he’s looking for in the Cubs managing job.

At least not right away.

Girardi, the former Yankees manager and ex-Cubs player, is one of at least three candidates interviewing with the front office this week, including presumptive favorite David Ross and Cubs first-base coach Will Venable.

Bench coach Mark Loretta interviewed Thursday, and the Cubs have at least one candidate in the playoffs they hope to interview.

But how much of the Cubs’ 84-win team will be left by spring training? Will the $43 million closer still be around, or even its 2016 MVP?

That may not matter as much to the first-time manager candidates on the Cubs’ list, but it might carry weight with the veteran manager Girardi, who likely will have choices among several openings.

“We’re not blowing anything up, per se,” team president Theo Epstein said during his season postmortem Monday, while nonetheless pledging, “real change, real adjustments at various levels – most levels – of our baseball operation.”

That necessarily means changes to a roster straining at its payroll limits, in need of serious alterations and with nothing of substance coming from the farm system any time soon.

“There are a lot of pieces in place there,” Girardi told 670-AM during an interview Wednesday morning when he expressed interest in managing and broke down the Cubs. “And that’s always a good thing. And they talk about retooling, and I think the Cubs in a lot of ways have the ability to do that.

“Some markets don’t have the ability to do that, but the Cubs have the ability to do that. I think they’ll be clever in the things that they do. They’ll look for every piece that fits their roster better than a piece now and do whatever they can.”

Sounds like a sure topic of conversation during this week’s interview.

Epstein didn’t even rule out trading 2016 MVP Kris Bryant or even shortstop Javy Baez on Monday, even as he cautioned that it’s too early to know what might even be available on the trade market.

“Next year is a priority,” Epstein said. “We have to balance it with the future. And probably that’s more important now than it was even a year ago, because we’re now just two years away from a lot of our best players reaching the end of their period of control with the Cubs.”

The Cubs needs at least a platoon leadoff option or two, an outfielder, a starting pitcher and back-end bullpen help to be considered a serious championship threat next year.

It’s hard to imagine getting much of that done without moving at least one high-profile player to get the right player(s) in return – or to at least clear payroll to add flexibility toward free agency.

If $43 million closer Craig Kimbrel, who has two years left on his deal, is still with the club when the season opens, a slow start by the team could mean shipping him out at the July 31 trade deadline as a move to recoup money and look to the future.

It was far too early to begin predicting how deep the shakeup might look, Epstein said on Monday.

“First of all there’s a lot of unknowns going forward when it comes to what is and what is not available and what is not available to us, say, in the trade market, for example,” he said. “So I can’t sit here and speak definitively about what you can expect or what you can assume.”