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updated: 10/31/2013 5:03 PM

Epstein's plate loaded with plenty of issues

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  • Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein still hasn't hired a replacement for fired manager Dale Sveum, and there are other issues and hirings to settle with his team as well.

      Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein still hasn't hired a replacement for fired manager Dale Sveum, and there are other issues and hirings to settle with his team as well.
    Associated Press/2012 file

 
 

Once again, the Cubs were not heard from in October.

Neither was team president Theo Epstein.

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While Epstein was watching the team he formerly ran -- the Boston Red Sox -- win another World Series (with some players Epstein procured), he has been hunkered down for more than a month trying to hire a field manager.

Epstein made his last public comments on the managerial situation and everything else on Sept. 30, when he fired Dale Sveum.

There have been no updates since in keeping with Epstein's forewarned strategy of making the managerial search private. Epstein and the Cubs watched as Joe Girardi returned to the Yankees. They've talked with A.J. Hinch, Manny Acta, Rick Renteria, Eric Wedge and Dave Martinez and will speak soon with Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo. The name of former big-league catcher Brad Ausmus also has come up.

None of the candidates seems to have sparked excitement in Chicago, but that's OK. Bobby Valentine was an "exciting" candidate when the Red Sox hired him, but Boston won the World Series with a guy named John Farrell.

But the Cubs have several concerns as the off-season gets into full swing after posting 101- and 96-loss seasons under the Epstein regime.

Here are a few:

Coaching staff: None of the Cubs' coaches under Sveum was guaranteed anything at the end of the season. Pitching coach Chris Bosio and first-base/outfield coach Dave McKay generally got good reviews for their work the last two years under Sveum.

The Cubs could wind up with an entirely new staff for 2014, meaning they'd have their third hitting coach in three years. Epstein fired Rudy Jaramillo during the 2012 season and replaced him with James Rowson. The next hitting coach will be charged with helping to turn around young "core" players Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo.

Cubs' free agents: Once the World Series ended, pitchers Scott Baker, Kevin Gregg and Matt Guerrier became free agents, as did backup catcher Dioner Navarro.

Navarro is the most interesting. He batted .300 with 13 homers, was a good clubhouse presence and a valuable mentor to young starting catcher Welington Castillo.

Baker didn't pitch until September after recovering from Tommy John surgery. He went 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA. The Cub signed him to a one-year, $5.5 million deal, and he might be worth another look-see.

Guerrier injured his elbow but may come back on a minor-league deal. Gregg seemed to grease his way out of town with some critical comments late in the season, comments for which he immediately apologized.

Arbitration-eligible players: The Cubs have a slew of them. The most prominent are starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood. It's possible both could get multiyear deals. Samardzija has 4-plus years of major-league service and cannot become a free agent until after the 2015 season. Wood has just over three years of service.

The other arb-eligible players are Darwin Barney, James Russell, Donnie Murphy, Luis Valbuena, Nate Schierholtz, Pedro Strop and Brian Bogusevic.

Barney fell short of a Gold Glove repeat. He's probably good for one more year, even though he didn't hit much. Russell, despite a hiccup or two, still is one of the top left-handed setup men in the game and someone who will take the ball a lot. Schierholtz had a career year, with 21 homers and 68 RBI, even though his production fell off in the second half.

Follow Bruce's reports on Twitter @BruceMiles2112.

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