New Cubs manager Craig Counsell said the process of filling out his coaching staff would be slow. So, expect bits and pieces of news to gradually form the whole picture.
A couple of those pieces came into focus on Saturday. Cubs assistant hitting coach Johnny Washington is leaving to join new Angels manager Ron Washington’s coaching staff as the hitting coach, the team announced. Former Cubs bench coach Andy Green is also departing, taking a job in the Mets front office, sources confirmed.
The expectation, sources told the Sun-Times, is that hitting coach Dustin Kelly and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy will return. The rest of the staff remains in limbo. Given the point in the offseason and the performance of the coaching staff last year, however, it is unlikely that there will be sweeping changes.
At the very least, Counsell has holes to fill on his staff. Even before David Ross’ dismissal and Counsell’s hire, the Cubs parted ways with bullpen coach Chris Young and catching and game strategy coach Craig Driver. Now, Washington and Green’s departures leave room for new hires and reshuffling.
Washington has an extensive coaching resume, dating back to 2009. Before serving as the Cubs assistant hitting coach the past two years, he spent time in the Dodgers and Padres organizations and was San Diego’s top hitting coach in 2019, in Green’s last year there as manager.
Green was Ross’ right-hand man for all three years of his tenure. Green’s hire before the 2020 season gave Ross, a first-time manager, someone with managerial experience to lean on when needed. Green also worked with the Cubs infield.
The Mets also reportedly interviewed Green for their manager opening, before ultimately hiring Carlos Mendoza. When Ross was fired and Counsell brought in, it seemed likely that Green would have opportunities outside of the Cubs organization to consider.
“It’s a place that I want to go slow at right now, it’s a place that wants to be deliberate, because it’s important,” Counsell said in his introductory news conference Monday. “And I just need to do more homework.”
He didn’t have much time for homework on the Cubs coaching staff during a whirlwind six-day hiring process.
Because Hoyer kept a small circle as he pursued Counsell, while Ross was still sitting manager, the news of Ross’ firing and Counsell’s hiring shocked many in the organization, including coaches and players. General manager Carter Hawkins was tasked with breaking the news internally, a process that consisted of a mix of individual conversations and a Zoom call with the coaching staff.
The remaining members of Ross’ staff are under contract, and the Cubs have the power to decline or grant permission to other teams looking to interview those coaches. But the Cubs have been open to letting coaches explore outside opportunities while they await Counsell’s decision.
Counsell said he wants to understand how the Cubs are using their coaches, how they help players, how information is delivered. And, as much as he can in a limited timeframe, he wants to get to know each coach as a person.
“You spend enormous amounts of time with people in close quarters,” Counsell said. “And so you do get to know people really, really well. There’s not many secrets at that point, when you’re working that closely with people.”