As of Friday, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon is a free agent. Maddon opted out of his contract with the Rays after nine seasons in Tampa, exercising a clause that reportedly triggered when GM Andrew Friedman left the ballclub to head west and run the Dodgers. Maddon was the second longest-tenured skipper in baseball, trailing only Mike Scioscia of the Angels, and should have his pick of opportunities for the next chapter in his managerial career. Maddon, who has already said he hopes to manage in 2015, posted six straight winning seasons with a small-market team from 2008 to 2013 — no small feat (pun intended) — and took the Rays to the postseason four times in the process, including one World Series appearance (2008).
Here are three possible landing spots for Maddon, although there will be no shortage of suitors for a manager widely regarded as one of the best in the game.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Immediate speculation about Maddon’s future will tie him to the L.A. Dodgers, where his boss landed earlier this month. Maddon shot down rumors that he would end up in Dodger blue as recently as 10 days ago, telling reporters: “I’m a Ray. … I want to continue to be one. … I don’t really look to go anywhere else.” However, the situation has obviously changed since then, because Maddon is, in fact, no longer a Ray. L.A. has a manager already in Don Mattingly, who posted back-to-back first-place finishes in the NL West the last two seasons, and while the Dodgers have said that Mattingly’s not going anywhere, they’ll be considered a possibility for Maddon’s services by many right up until the former Rays skipper has a new job.
One city that has to be considered even more likely a destination for Maddon than L.A. is Minneapolis, simply because the Twins are currently the only team in baseball (besides Tampa Bay) that doesn’t already have a manager in place. Minnesota fired longtime manager Ron Gardenhire last month after 13 seasons despite his six playoff appearances in that time. The Twins haven’t won more than 70 games in a year since 2010, and Maddon is known to work magic in helping a roster overachieve. Could he end up in the Twin Cities in time for the 2015 season?
Perhaps the most logical team for Maddon to manage in 2015, according to several top baseball reporters, is the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have money to spend, a myriad of young, talented prospects to develop, and, of course, a stronger desire to win the World Series than pretty much any franchise ever. A 106-year drought will do that to you. The Chicago Tribune points out that Maddon has gone on record with effusive praise of the Chicago fan base and Wrigley Field in the past, and the Billy Goat-cursed Cubs might just be a fit for baseball’s newest free agent. Standing in the way: Chicago’s current manager, Rick Renteria, who has two years left on a three-year deal.