The Chicago Cubs wasted little time this off-season replacing former manager Dale Sveum by naming Rick Renteria the 53rd manager in team history. The decision comes just one week after the baseball season concluded and a full month before the winter meetings commenced in early December. The quick hire by Cubs management further shows the front offices’ commitment to building the organization year round.
Renteria spent the past eight seasons as a minor league coach for the Florida Marlins and San Diego Padres farm system. Since 2011, Renteria has been the Padres primary bench coach and was named manager of the Mexican national team for the 2013 World Baseball Classic. The 52 year-old manager, nicknamed “The Secret Weapon” during his five year playing career, was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1980 and played primarily in the infield before he retired as a player from the Mexico City Reds in 1996.
Renteria beat out several sought after coaching candidates including AJ Hinch, Manny Acta, Eric Wedge, and Dave Martinez, and comes to Chicago with high praise from team management, especially Cubs Vice-President and general manager Jed Hoyer who worked with Renteria when he was the general manager in San Diego from 2009 to 2011.
The new Cubs skipper is coming to a team in year three of the Epstein era and to a ball club who finished the past two seasons under .500. But whereas the major league team has continued to underachieve, the Cubs farm system ranks among the best in baseball. He is renowned for his abilities to get the best out of young talent and is known as being a hands-on manager. Additionally, his bi-lingual background will prove to be beneficial as the team has a number of Latino players in every level of the organization. It was speculated that this was an important component in Renteria’s hire because of the lack of Spanish speaking coaches the organization has had in the past.
The real test for Renteria is going to be his ability to continue developing young players at the major league level including Jeff Samardzija, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. Last season, Castro produced career lows in batting average and runs batted in under Sveum after posting All-Star caliber numbers his first two seasons. The young shortstop has gained an unflattering reputation across the majors as being a lazy player and many feel it is because he was being held unaccountable for his botched play on the field.
But the Cubs feel they have found the right manager to lead the team going forward by signing Renteria to a three year contract with an option for the 2018 season. With more young talent expected to be called up every year, “The Secret Weapon” will have to prove to both Cubs fans and Cubs management that he has what it takes to break a 105 year World Series drought.