Chicago Cubs hire Craig Counsell to replace manager David Ross, who is out after 4 seasons on the job

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In a shocking twist, the Chicago Cubs are hiring Craig Counsell as their manager.

The Cubs announced Monday they are bringing in the former Milwaukee Brewers manager, whose contract expired at the end of this past season, and moving on from David Ross, who was under contract through next season with a club option for 2025.

Counsell will get a five-year contract worth more than $40 million that would make him the major leagues’ highest-paid manager, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported. Counsell’s agency, Meister Sports, confirmed that report.

“Today we made the difficult decision to dismiss David Ross as our major-league manager,” Cubs President Jed Hoyer said in a statement. “On behalf of the Cubs organization, we express our deep gratitude for David’s contributions to our club, both on and off the field.

“First as a player and then as a manager, David continually showcased his ability to lead. David’s legacy will be felt in Chicago for generations and his impact to our organization will stack up with the legends that came before him.”

It’s an abrupt ending to Ross’ tenure in Chicago that saw the Cubs go 262-284 (a .480 winning percentage) under his direction the last four years. They were poised to reach the postseason this year for the first time since 2020, Ross’ debut season as manager, before they collapsed during the final three weeks to squander their wild-card position.

Despite the painful ending, Ross received public support from Chairman Tom Ricketts and Hoyer when both were asked whether the former catcher on the 2016 World Series champions would return for the final year of his deal.

“Rossy had a great season and the players play hard for him,” Ricketts said on the final day of the season in Milwaukee. “He’s our guy, so I like him a lot. … He’s a great manager. He creates a great clubhouse culture. The players love playing for him.”

Hoyer echoed Ricketts’ sentiment while acknowledging the expectations going forward.

“He’s not a new manager anymore,” Hoyer said. “He’s going into his fifth season. I think he’s really matured in the job and developed. Like all of us, I think he wants to get better every year. … One of his greatest skills is he’s self-critical. He wants to continue to get better. And I know he’s going to spend the winter thinking about how he could have done things differently.

“Do we have disagreements and do we have heated conversations? Of course we do, but you will with any manager. They have to make so many different decisions. You have so many things to weigh, so obviously we work hard all the time to give the right information and if there are things that we disagree with or things that we can do better, he’s very open-minded to that. He’s constantly trying to improve.

“But ultimately we’re very pleased with the job he did this year and I think that he should be proud of the fact that that group kept fighting for him.”

Ricketts and Hoyer commended the job Ross did in leading the Cubs turnaround this past season, going from 10 games under .500 in June to 12 games over .500 in early September, a first in franchise history.

Ross’ strengths centered on managing the player and clubhouse element of the job and he was well-liked by the team, with Hoyer noting during his end-of-season news conference in October that “creating that type of culture is incredibly difficult and he does a fantastic job of that.”

“Fifty to sixty people are down here every single day. All those people at some point in that day want or need his time, his mood, his direction,” Hoyer said. “Everything about the manager, it just defines what happens in the clubhouse.

“And this game is so up and down all the time, to be able to bring a positive, productive energy every single day to stay on message all the time, to be encouraging the players and to keep their respect all the time — there’s not a lot of groups of humans that are more cynical than a group of major-league players, and if they sense any weakness, that any part of you is not genuine at all, you can lose that group of players really quickly.

“No one’s more self-deprecating about their own (playing) career than Rossy, a guy that got carried off the field after his last game and somehow he’s incredibly self-deprecating and talks about knowing how hard the game is, and that’s something that really resonates with the players.”

The Brewers went 707-625 (.531) in Counsell’s nine seasons as their manager and made the playoffs five of the last six years, including three National League Central titles.

His departure for a division rival will add spice to Brewers-Cubs series. The Cubs’ first series in Milwaukee next year is scheduled for May 27-30.

Brewers owner Mark Attanasio told Milwaukee reporters on a Zoom call that when Counsell informed him Monday morning he would be joining the Cubs, he replied, “Are you messing with me?”

“We’re all here today because we lost Craig,” Attanasio said. “But I’ve reflected on this. Craig has lost us and he’s lost our community. It’s a really special place to be.”

This is not the first time in recent years the Cubs have fired a manager in order to hire another. In November 2014, Theo Epstein dismissed Rick Renteria after one season to bring in Joe Maddon on a five-year contract. Maddon managed the club through 2019, including the 2016 World Series title. He was replaced by Ross.

Minor moves were overshadowed Monday amid Counsell’s stunning hiring. The Cubs had two players claimed off waivers — right-hander Jeremiah Estrada by the San Diego Padres and first baseman Jared Young by the St. Louis Cardinals — and they traded left-hander Brendon Little to the Toronto Blue Jays for cash considerations.

Right-hander Nick Burdi cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa, and infielder Luis Vázquez was added to the 40-man roster to prevent him from becoming a minor-league free agent.

The Cubs reportedly extended a qualifying offer to outfielder Cody Bellinger, who is expected to decline it. If Bellinger signs elsewhere this offseason, the Cubs would receive a compensatory draft pick in 2024.


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