CHICAGO -- The last time the Cubs saw Mike Napoli, he was batting cleanup for the Indians in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. Napoli's veteran leadership behind the scenes and powerful bat in the heart of the lineup contributed to Cleveland's remarkable postseason run that fall.
Now, Napoli is set to join new Cubs manager David Ross' staff on the North Side as the team's quality assurance coach, a source told MLB.com. That brings Chicago one step closer to an official announcement about the makeup of the coaching corps that Ross will have for his first season at the helm in 2020.
"These are all his decisions," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told reporters at the GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Wednesday. "These are his coaches. He gets input from us -- not the other way around. He'll decide on the staff. That's the way it should be and has always been.
"We're down to just about the last staff member before we can finalize things. Hopefully, that'll happen relatively soon."
The last spot on the Major League staff that has yet to be filled is that of a base coach, and the Cubs are "going to be patient" with the hiring process on that front to find the right fit. Epstein confirmed to reporters at the GM Meetings earlier this week that Will Venable (Chicago's first-base coach in 2019 and one of the team's initial managerial candidates) will be back on the staff for the '20 season.
Via a combination of sources and reports, other coaches in the plans for '20 include Tommy Hottovy (pitching coach), Chris Young (bullpen coach), Mike Borzello (associate pitching, catching and strategy coach), Anthony Iapoce (hitting coach), Terrmel Sledge (assistant hitting coach) and Andy Green (bench coach).
Napoli will replace Chris Denorfia, who worked as the quality assurance coach under former Cubs manager Joe Maddon last season.
The Cubs have not formally announced any hirings, preferring to wait until the entire staff is complete before taking that official step.
The 38-year-old Napoli was teammates with Ross for parts of two years during their days with the Red Sox, winning a World Series title in 2013. Napoli famously roamed the streets of Boston shirtless, still celebrating hours following the championship parade. While in Cleveland in '16, Tribe fans latched on to a "Party at Napoli's" mantra that was soon on T-shirts that were sold to support Cleveland Clinic Children's.
Napoli's raucous, hard-nosed personality was balanced with a determination to win and a strong work ethic behind the scenes. The former slugger spent parts of 12 seasons in the Majors with the Angels, Rangers, Red Sox and Indians, earning a strong reputation as a leader on and off the field along the way.
Under manager Terry Francona, the Indians brought Napoli into the fold in 2016 not only to launch home runs -- which he did in impressive fashion at times -- but to help guide an upstart Tribe team trying to realize its potential. Including the '16 season, Napoli played in the postseason in eight of 10 seasons from '07-'16, reaching the Fall Classic in '11 (with Texas), '13 (Boston) and '16 (Cleveland).
Cleveland signed Napoli again during Spring Training in 2018 and he agreed to head to Triple-A Columbus, where a knee injury ended his season after eight games. Regarded as a future coach or managerial candidate, Napoli stepped away from baseball in '19 before agreeing to the Cubs' offer to team up with Ross and the new-look staff on the North Side.
"He expected everybody else to follow his lead," Francona said in 2018. "We've said a lot about him. It's true. He had a big hand in our team transforming itself into a team that could possibly win the World Series. He had a huge hand in that."