CHICAGO — Longtime Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell will be heading down I-94 to take over the reigns of the Chicago Cubs from David Ross in a stunning announcement Monday.
Counsell, 53, has managed the Brewers since 2015. MLB insider Ken Rosenthal reported that he will sign a five-year deal worth more than $40 million — which makes Counsell the highest-paid manager in MLB history.
MLB insider Jeff Passan pointed out that Counsell’s deal, which eclipses the yearly salary Joe Torre received from the Yankees, is “industry-shaking.”
Toward the end of October, Counsell was granted permission by the Brewers to interview for multiple teams — with many connecting him to the Mets. New York hired Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza Monday morning and insiders then said Counsell was expected to be hired by a team with a current manager.
David Ross was hired in late 2019 after World Series champion Joe Maddon was not brought back following a division collapse to the Cardinals.
Counsell, a Notre Dame graduate who was born in South Bend and grew up in southeast Wisconsin, was 707-625 in nine seasons with the Brewers.
Ross, a 2016 World Series champion affectionately known as “Grandpa Rossy,” was 264-284 in four seasons on the North Side. He won a division championship in his first pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but was knocked out by Miami in the Wild Card.
The 46-year-old signed a contract extension last year through the 2024 season with an option for 2025.
Ross was an ESPN analyst prior to taking over for Maddon.
The Cubs’ 2023 season surprised some with the North Siders being in the mix for the playoffs until the final week. Jed Hoyer and company decided to “buy” at the deadline with third basemen Jeimer Candelario and reliever Jose Cuas, but the bullpen likely needed more help.
“Today we made the difficult decision to dismiss David Ross as our Major League Manager,” Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer said Monday. “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.”
Counsell will head into 2024 with one of the best defenses in all of baseball. On Sunday, shortstop Dansby Swanson, second basemen Nico Hoerner and left fielder Ian Happ all won N.L. Gold Glove awards.
In his eight seasons up in Milwaukee, Counsell has led the Brewers to three N.L. Central titles and five playoff appearances. The furthest he went was a 2018 NLCS appearance against the Dodgers.
Counsell, known for an unorthodox batting stance, played 16 seasons as an infielder, including two World Series wins with the Marlins and Diamondbacks. He finished his career in 2011 with Milwaukee.
This hasn’t been the first time Cubs’ brass pulled a similar move when a blue-chip manager becomes available.
In 2014 after just one season in the dugout of the Friendly Confines, Rick Renteria was fired when Maddon signaled he was open to leaving Tampa. You know what happened after Epstein and Hoyer’s beer-filled meeting on the beach — Maddon handled all the young talent with ease and won the 2016 World Series.
While Ross was in for four years, Ricketts told reporters on Oct. 1, including the Chicago Tribune, that he was “our guy” while pointing to the Cubs’ miraculous turnaround in July.
During his annual press conference at the end of the season, Hoyer echoed similar sentiments, saying he was “very pleased” and pointed to the turnaround.
Counsell will face his former team for the first time during a Friday afternoon game at Wrigley Field on May 3. He’s tentatively scheduled to be announced to Cubs fans on Nov. 13, according to USA Today.