Craig Counsell was the hottest managing free agent heading into the off-season. Most experts and insiders believed that Counsell would stay with his hometown Milwaukee Brewers or go to the New York Mets, where former Brewers GM David Stearns was. However, here we sit, and the Chicago Cubs have brought Counsell in a shocking move to be their next manager. Counsell also gets the largest managerial contract in baseball history at five years and $40 million.
As you can tell by my and Sy's reaction, we were not expecting this move.
If you watched the rest of Beer vs. Ivy, first of all, thank you, but secondly, you know I talked about what this means for the Cubs heading into 2024. For those who didn't, this move means that the Cubs are putting their foot down to be a contender heading into next season. You don't make this move without backing it up with big signings in free agency. This means the Cubs have to re-sign Cody Bellinger without a doubt and add at least one more player to a nine-figure contract. Who that will be is yet to be determined, but this is a significant first step.
This is the type of move I have been waiting for the Cubs to make for a long time. It felt like in years past, the front office decided to shy away from making an aggressive move. Acting like a small market team when you are in the third-largest market in baseball and have money to use. This move in getting one of the top three managers in the sport is what I and many Cubs fans have been waiting for.
So, how did the Cubs land Craig Counsell? According to both The Athletic and Sports Illustrated, the Cubs worked quickly by calling Counsell on November 1 so they didn't have to ask permission to speak with him. Then, the two sides worked out a deal that insiders announced and then later by the team itself. According to Tom Verducci, a friend of Counsell told the Cubs, “If he ever managed anywhere else, the Cubs have always been his dream job.” Counsell didn't come to the Cubs because of the money; he wanted to come here. The close proximity to his home of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, to be close to his family was indeed a driving factor for Counsell to join the Cubs.
While we won't know if the Cubs' off-season is a full-on success, adding Counsell is the best foot they could have started on. Adding a top 3 manager in the sport shows the team, the fans, and the whole baseball world that the Cubs are back and ready to (as Lawernce Holmes of 670 The Score said) be the bullies of the National League.