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Cubs to interview Espada, Kapler for manager

@MLBastian
October 14, 2019

CHICAGO -- While the Cubs move "full-steam ahead" in their search for a new manager, as president of baseball operations Theo Epstein described the process at season's end, the team is now turning its attention to external candidates. The Cubs announced on Monday that both Astros bench coach Joe Espada

CHICAGO -- While the Cubs move "full-steam ahead" in their search for a new manager, as president of baseball operations Theo Epstein described the process at season's end, the team is now turning its attention to external candidates.

The Cubs announced on Monday that both Astros bench coach Joe Espada and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler would interview for the team's managerial vacancy. MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported that Espada was scheduled to be interviewed by Chicago on Monday before rejoining Houston for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday in New York.

The timing of Kapler's interview is not immediately known, but he joins Joe Girardi (interviewed by the Cubs on Wednesday) as one of the only candidates to date with Major League managing experience. So far, the Cubs have also interviewed three internal options: Mark Loretta, David Ross and Will Venable.

The Cubs had interest in interviewing Carlos Beltrán -- currently a special advisor for the Yankees -- but he told reporters prior to Game 2 of the ALCS on Sunday in Houston that he only had interest in the Mets' vacancy. There are currently eight managing jobs open around the Majors.

The 44-year Espada has gained momentum as a managerial candidate, given his recent ascension from Minor League instructor to Major League bench coach for one of baseball's most innovative and successful franchises.

Prior to working with the Astros, Espada served as a special assistant to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman (2014) and as a third-base coach for the Yanks ('15-17). He held a variety of roles in the Marlins' farm system before advancing to the MLB coaching staff in Miami from '10-13.

The Cubs have culled a number of coaches over the years from the Marlins, including current Orioles manager Brandon Hyde, who previously worked in Chicago's farm system en route to Joe Maddon's big league coaching staff. As it happens, Hyde is also Espada's brother in-law.

Kapler, 44, has ties to Epstein from their days with the Red Sox. Kapler suited up for Boston from 2004-06, when Epstein was leading that front office. Prior to his two-year stint as manager of the Phillies, Kapler also worked in the Dodgers' player development system.

So between Espada and Kapler, the Cubs have a chance to sit down and discuss some of their experiences with the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers. As Chicago works to improve its own operation from the farm system to the big leagues -- taking steps to grow beyond the process that helped lead to the Cubs' 2016 World Series run -- those are some of the teams Epstein and Co. are studying.

"We have to try to create a winning culture for now -- not what was a winning culture a few years ago," Epstein said recently. "I think that we're intent on doing better in that area. All of our players are. They all want to be part of something that's the best culture in baseball. That should be the standard. I look at a couple organizations in particular with envy in a way I'm sure they look at our organization in a lot of ways with envy."

Under Kapler, the Phillies posted a 161-163 record over the past two seasons, missing the playoffs in both years. While Kapler was collaborative with the front office and progressive in his thinking, there were questions about the level of accountability and sense of urgency inside Philadelphia's clubhouse. That could have played a role in Kapler's recent dismissal.

When Epstein detailed what attributes the Cubs will be looking for in their new manager, a greater sense of accountability was one of the items on the list.

"Accountability is important," Epstein said after the season ended. "We were pretty mistake-prone this year. This is, again, an organization-wide challenge, not on the manager. But, the next manager should be a part of this, helping create a culture of accountability."

There is a general sense that the Cubs' managerial job is Ross' for the taking, if the former catcher and cult hero on the North Side wants the role. That said, Loretta's experience as Maddon's bench coach last year makes him an interesting candidate, and Venable's relationship with the team and front office could make him a rising star on the coaching-slash-managing front.

Among the external candidates, Girardi boasts the most experience and he had success in the under-the-microscope New York market in his decade at the helm with the Yankees. Epstein said experience would be considered, but not mandatory. That could make Espada a darkhorse candidate for the role, considering his links to player development and some of baseball's top teams of the past few years.

"There will be some changes," Epstein said. "That's our responsibility as leadership, to take a look at everything that I personally can do better and we can do better as an organization, because we are extremely energized and optimistic about our future. It's incumbent on us to build the next Cubs championship team."

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.