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Baseball executive on potential Maddon hiring: 'There is no script for this'

Joe Maddon is an intriguing option for the rebuilding Cubs. Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- If in fact the Chicago Cubs are looking into hiring former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon for the job that current skipper Rick Renteria occupies they’re heading into some unchartered baseball territory, at least according to one longtime executive who wanted to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the situation.

“There is no script for this,” the executive said over the weekend. “All you can do is the best you can to treat (Renteria) with as much respect as you can. But there is no perfect way to do this.”

No, Monday’s off-day in the World Series isn’t allowing for a press conference announcing Maddon as the Cubs new skipper.

However, at the very least, sources inside Maddon’s camp, including his Chicago-based agent Alan Nero, believe his fate for next year could be decided by the end of this week. That corresponds with the end of the baseball season as the World Series will be over by Wednesday at the latest. Maddon has already stolen enough headlines, the Cubs or another team aren’t about to make an announcement before play on the field is over.

The unique saga began late last week when Maddon opted out of his contract with the Rays, declaring himself a free agent. The only problem for the popular manager: only one team in the league, the Minnesota Twins, has a managerial opening. It means any team that already has a manager and wants to replace him with Maddon will need to tread lightly. It’s simply not the ideal time to be making a change; that usually comes right after the season.

According to the executive, the fine line of when and what to inform your current manager is a big dilemma. The belief, of course, is a deal with Maddon has to be in place before any call to Renteria or any other coach is made. It’s not like you can keep him informed of any negotiations. This affects coaches and their families and could easily fall apart as much as it happens.

So let’s review the situation as the only things publicly known right now are that Maddon is available and several teams have stated they are NOT interested. But not the Cubs, they’ve been quiet on the subject. No statements, no leaks, no opinions from the usually transparent front office. Of course, that’s all for obvious and legitimate reasons. They already employ a manager in Renteria and if they’re interested in Maddon there’s not much -- or anything -- they can say publicly until the saga is over. Besides the potential actual hiring of Maddon, showing as much respect to Renteria is a top priority, believes the executive.

It’s possible the Cubs have been mum on the subject so they can be consistent the next time the opportunity presents itself. If they need to put out a statement declaring their manager is returning every time another one becomes available you could see how it could become a tiresome ordeal. But this is a unique situation and if they wanted it all to go away -- like those other teams -- they could simply say ‘Maddon is a good man but we have a manager,’ or something to that effect. They haven’t done that.

Make no mistake, this will not be easy on the Cubs front office. Replacing a man they’ve stated publicly is coming back and by most accounts did a decent job in his first year isn’t the most ethical thing to do -- even if it’s the right thing. Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer can look at themselves in the mirror and sleep at night believing two things: It makes them better to have Maddon in the organization and whatever “pain” they inflict on Renteria is nowhere near the pain they’ve inflicted on Cubs fans since taking over the the team -- let alone the 106 years of pain the city has felt. And Renteria will get paid not to manage. Many of us would take that same “pain” and deal with it appropriately. Renteria will be disappointed but will show class in the face of adversity -- if it happens. Again, that’s no sure thing.

Back to Maddon.

Here’s what we know, or at least think we know, in what is undoubtedly a secret process considering the sensitive nature of replacing a currently employed manager:

No less than three non-playoff teams, the Philadelphia Pillies, New York Mets and Boston Red Sox have said they’re not in for Maddon. And we can assume the 10 playoff teams will not be changing managers, especially considering the most likely candidate, the Dodgers, have already said Don Mattingly is returning. The Tigers have been transparent about Brad Ausmus coming back as well. Others have stated the same and it’s safe to assume from Clint Hurdle in Pittsburgh to Bob Melvin in Oakland, they’re all safe.

That’s 13 teams Maddon won’t be going to. We can add three more to list with the Rangers, Diamondbacks and Astros having just hired managers this offseason. It’s “bad” enough to be firing a manager after one year on the job, no one is doing it after just hiring one. So that’s 16 down. Toronto and Cleveland have veteran managers and you wouldn’t think they’re talking with Maddon either. Could the Twins make a late run? Possibly, though some question if they’ll pay Maddon what he wants and he would be going from one small-market team to another. It doesn’t seem likely. That leaves a handful of teams he could be talking to.

If you’re looking for a couple that could possibly pull this off, besides the Cubs, think Seattle and Milwaukee. Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has that kind of aggressive nature and the Mariners have shown the same urgency in recent years. Both teams said the right things about their managers after the season ended, but so did the Cubs. There’s nothing to say Atlanta, Colorado or Miami aren’t talking to Maddon but the fit doesn’t seem right in those places and the Braves have publicly backed Fredi Gonzalez as well.

It comes down to this: the Cubs can pay Maddon, have no deep ties to their current manager, who isn’t a former player with the club or an up-and-comer like Ausmus or Matt Williams. The Cubs didn’t finish above .500 like Seattle and even Milwaukee. In short, it’s an easy decision to make, if it can get done.

And you get the feeling there may not be another manager in the game who the Cubs would do this for. If Buck Showalter had opted out of the Baltimore Orioles, would this have come up? Even one year later I don’t think Joe Girardi is handed the job. This is the time to strike for Maddon, a rare kind of manager who seemingly has the ability to take on every task of the job at a high level -- be it with a young or veteran team. You can wonder how he’ll do in a large market but it’s hardly a reason to pause the process.

In a weird twist, the timing couldn’t be better for the Cubs. Once the 2015 season starts, Maddon becomes instantly more available to many more teams. Those playoff teams that get off to bad starts could now call him -- especially the big-market teams who could pay him. He’s on record saying it’s important to him. The unique timing of his departure means the Cubs could be competing in a market they should win -- if they really want him.

Managing the Cubs, taking a year off or working in television or joining a front office somewhere seem like the most likely scenarios, though the latter two clearly are not Maddon’s first choices. Maybe it will come down to the best paycheck. As Epstein indicated about players, 99 percent of the time, that’s what matters most.

The silence at Wrigley Field -- besides the construction noise -- continues to speak volumes. The quieter the Cubs get the more they might be interested in Maddon. If at some point it becomes more likely than not he’s their manager, that’s when the Cubs really get serious about winning.