Whether the Cubs are any better in 2020, the front office certainly is making good on team president Theo Epstein’s promise for “real change, real adjustments at most levels of our baseball operation.”
The latest example is the decision by the front office and incoming manager David Ross to boot bullpen coach Lester Strode, the longest-tenured member of the staff. It’s a move that surprised others in the organization.
Strode, a big-league coach since 2007 who joined the organization as a minor-league pitching coach in 1989, was offered a job on the minor-league side of the operation but said Wednesday he wasn’t sure what he’ll do next.
It’s just one move in a series of sweeping changes underway for the coaching staff, player development department and overall support staff.
That included the departures of a massage therapist and yoga instructor, as well as the departure of wildly popular strength and conditioning coach/cultural icon Tim Buss after 19 years as part of a restructured strength and conditioning program.
Buss, a clubhouse favorite who conducted pregame team-building gatherings and was put in charge of spring-training skits, was quickly hired by outgoing Cubs manager Joe Maddon in a staff role for the Angels that amounts to a promotion.
Third-base and infield coach Brian Butterfield also is joining Maddon in Anaheim.
Ross’ big-league coaching staff remains in enough flux that some of the coaches under contract for 2020 aren’t sure whether they’ll be back.
That includes bench coach Mark Loretta, who was a candidate for the managerial opening. He has talked several times with Ross and the front office since Ross was hired and has been told he’s “in the mix” to return in the role but that the bench coach job has been opened up to outside candidates, as well.
Epstein and Ross both suggested last week they would seek a more experienced bench coach to help the first-year manager get up to speed in his job. Former Padres manager Andy Green is among those who have been linked to the Cubs.
Loretta, a former All-Star player and front office assistant with the Padres, was hired a year ago as part of yet another coaching staff shake-up under Epstein. Loretta, who is not involved with either of the two remaining manager openings in the majors, said he enjoyed his season in Chicago and hopes to return.
He has not been given any indication whether he would be considered for another role on the staff if the Cubs hire a different bench coach.