One week after leaving the Milwaukee Brewers, Craig Counsell was officially introduced as the new manager of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Monday. The winningest manager in Brewers history said the vision laid out by president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer sold him on the Cubs, and contributed to him joining the North Siders.
“This organization is just in great health. Jed presented a very compelling vision of that,” Counsell said Monday. “It is time to be a Cub. There is momentum happening here. And it feels close, and that means we have a really exciting future ahead of us, and now it’s my job to be part of taking us to the next level. That’s the plan.”
The Cubs went 83-79 this season, nine games worse than the Brewers, though they have core veterans locked up long-term (Ian Happ, Dansby Swanson), several touted young players on the roster (Pete Crow-Armstrong, Nico Hoerner, Justin Steele, Jordan Wicks), and a farm system poised to send even more talent to the big leagues, including top pitching prospect Cade Horton.
Of course, the Cubs gave Counsell a massive five-year contract worth $40 million, which is believed to make him the highest manager in baseball history, surpassing the $7.5 million the New York Yankees paid Joe Torre in 2007. Counsell also gets to stay close to his Milwaukee, his hometown. The Cubs are on the upswing, they’re close to home, and yes, they’re paying handsomely. Everything aligned perfectly to lure Counsell away from the Brewers.
“I’m here because you have to challenge yourself to get to the next place,” Counsell said, adding he feels heightened pressure as the highest paid manager. “… There’s pressure in this job. There should be. There’s a financial component to this obviously. My job is to win baseball games no matter what.”
Counsell confirmed Hoyer reached out to him on Nov. 1, the day after his contract with the Brewers expired, and he missed Hoyer’s initial call. He called him back and the two agreed to meet that day because Counsell was set to fly to New York to meet with the Mets about their managerial vacancy. The pair agreed to a contract four days later.
“I suggested I was interested, but cautious was the best way to say it,” Counsell said about his conversation with Hoyer. “But I was interested. We got together that day.”
While all that happened, the Cubs already had a manager in place. The club eventually fired David Ross with a year remaining on his contract to hire Counsell. Counsell said Ross reached out to congratulate him before his hiring even became public. “I respect the heck out of David Ross,” Counsell said Monday.
With Counsell introduced, the Cubs will now focus on filling out his coaching staff, and adding to a roster that needs a middle of the order power threat and more pitching depth. Oh, and Cody Bellinger is a free agent. Re-signing or replacing him with a comparable player — of which there are few — is at the top of the offseason to-do list.
Counsell left the NL Central rival Brewers after nine seasons and is the franchise’s all-time leaders in games managed (1,332) and wins (707). Milwaukee has not yet hired a new manager.