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Source: Cubs, Espada to interview second time

Astros bench coach first candidate to meet twice for managerial vacancy
@MLBastian
October 20, 2019

CHICAGO -- In the wake of a wild walk-off win over the Yankees on Saturday night, the Astros are on their way to the World Series for the second time in three years. And their bench coach, Joe Espada, is on his way to Chicago for a second managerial interview

CHICAGO -- In the wake of a wild walk-off win over the Yankees on Saturday night, the Astros are on their way to the World Series for the second time in three years. And their bench coach, Joe Espada, is on his way to Chicago for a second managerial interview with the Cubs.

Citing a source, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported that Espada was en route to Chicago on Sunday to meet with the Cubs, who first interviewed him for their managerial vacancy on Monday. The move shows that the Cubs were clearly impressed with Espada the first time around, and they want to use the two days leading up to the World Series to their advantage.

To date, the Cubs have also interviewed internal candidates David Ross, Mark Loretta and Will Venable. In addition to Espada, Chicago also interviewed former Yankees manager Joe Girardi and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler. No other contenders for the job have been identified yet, and Espada is the first interviewee known to have a second sit-down scheduled.

Espada and Ross are widely considered the top two candidates for the post.

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It is possible that the Cubs will wait until after the World Series to announce the successor to Joe Maddon, who did not have his contract extended after an historic five-year run on the North Side. The Fall Classic begins on Tuesday in Houston and could last until Oct. 30, if the series between the Astros and Nationals goes the full seven games.

Maddon, who guided the Cubs to four postseason berths and a World Series triumph in 2016, signed a three-year contract as the Angels' new manager. That left seven managerial vacancies around Major League Baseball, and Espada's name has been a popular one not only for the Cubs. Both the Giants and Pirates have also been linked to Houston's bench coach.

When looking at Espada's recent track record, it is not hard to see why he would be high on the Cubs' list.

The 44-year-old Espada joined manager AJ Hinch's staff in 2018, replacing Alex Cora as bench coach after he was hired to be the manager of the Red Sox. Prior to moving to the Astros' bench, Espada spent the previous four years with the Yankees. He first served as a special assistant to GM Brian Cashman in '14 before moving to the third-base coach role under on Girardi's Yankees' staff from '15-17.

As the Cubs make changes throughout their organization -- the team reorganized its player development staff hierarchy last week -- the Yankees and Astros are franchises that Chicago is examining as examples. In New York, Espada played a role in the team's change in philosophy in shifting. With Houston, he has helped serve as a communication bridge between the front office, manager, coaches and players.

Prior to his years with the Astros and Yankees, Espada was groomed as a coach in the Marlins' Minor League system before graduating to Miami's Major League staff in 2010. He has filled a variety of roles -- hitting coach and infield coordinator, among them -- and has also coached for Puerto Rico in two World Baseball Classics ('13 and '17).

The Cubs want to continue to "push the envelope" -- using the words of president of baseball operations Theo Epstein -- when it comes to innovating and modernizing its operations from the Minor Leagues to the Majors. Espada has first-hand experience with how Houston and New York have led the industry, while also being lauded for his skills in instruction, communication and collaboration.

Espada would provide a new voice, while Ross is an option as a familiar one.

Ross, 42, currently a special assistant to baseball operations and an analyst for ESPN. He has a long history with Epstein and the Cubs' front office, and he also has relationships throughout the team from his days as Chicago's backup catcher and World Series hero. During his two years playing for the Cubs (2015-16), Ross also earned a reputation as an effective leader behind the scenes.

The Cubs know what they have in-house in Ross. A second interview with Espada will help the franchise get a better sense of what he brings to the table, too.

"We're not going to drag this out any longer than it needs to be, but we also want to be thorough," Epstein said at the end of the season. "In the interview process, you want to make sure you don't end up with the candidate who interviews the best. You want to end up with the candidate that's going to be the best manager.

"That can be nuanced. We're going to do the best we can in that process, but we're certainly not going to hesitate."

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.