Cubs begin offseason by shaking up coaching staff
The Cubs kicked off the 2021-22 offseason this week by announcing a pair of changes to their coaching staff.
Hitting coach Anthony Iapoce and associate pitching coach and catching/strategy coach Mike Borzello will not return to David Ross’ group in 2022.
Meanwhile, Ross and Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer are in discussions on a contract extension for the manager after wrapping up his second season.
Ross’ contract currently goes through the 2022 season with a team option for 2023, which will be picked up. The extension would begin after the 2023 season.
“David has done a fantastic job as manager,” Hoyer said in his end-of-season press conference Wednesday. “He’s learned a ton on the job. Even while learning, I think he’s excelled, he’s kept morale good, he’s run the staff very well. I love having him as a partner.
“Our hope is that David’s here for a long time.”
With Iapoce, the parting was amicable from both sides. He was brought on to the coaching staff before the 2019 season to work with the core group of players that he had longstanding relationships with from their minor-league days in the Cubs system.
Iapoce served as the Cubs’ minor-league hitting coordinator from 2013-15. Most of the players that he worked with from that time have moved on to other teams, with Kyle Schwarber nontendered last winter and Kris Bryant, Javy Báez and Anthony Rizzo traded away at the deadline this year.
“‘Poce is a fantastic human being,” Hoyer said. “As positive as anyone can be. We brought him back to the organization — he had been the hitting coordinator when we had this core group coming up through the minor leagues. Obviously he did a great job developing those guys.
“At the end of this year, I think both sides realized this was the right time to make that break. Nothing but really positive things to say about a great baseball guy and he came back here to help get us back to where some of those guys had been. He worked incredibly hard. Super thankful for everything he did here.”
Borzello spent the last 10 years on the Cubs coaching staff. He was one of Dale Sveum’s first hires before the 2012 season, where Borzello served as a catching coach and was in charge of scouting and putting together strategy.
He has been a huge part of the organization’s pitching infrastructure and gameplanning over the last decade.
“Obviously a terrific hire,” Hoyer said. “He’s done so much for the organization as a strategist, as a catching coach. Both sides kinda felt like 10 years was the right amount of time. I have no doubt he’ll land on his feet and do great things, but I couldn’t be more thankful for what he did here for 10 years.”
Borzello was dealt a difficult task this season in devising gameplans for essentially two different rosters and a ton of turnover on the pitching staff. The Cubs set a MLB record by utilizing 69 different players throughout 2021.
As for the rest of the coaches, Hoyer and the Cubs expect most of the staff to return.
“We’re still having conversations with a number of people but I think the bulk of the staff will certainly be back,” he said. “The staff did a really terrific job this year of grinding through a really difficult year where — thanks to trades, thanks to COVID, thanks to injuries, etc. — we used more players than anyone’s used in the history of this game. They deserve a lot of credit for sticking with that and being positive and getting the most out of a lot of guys.”
The Cubs will hold a search for the vacant hitting coach spot this offseason. Chris Valaika served as the assistant hitting coach for the 2021 season — his first in the position — and he will be considered for the head job in 2022.
Either way, Valaika will be back in uniform on the coaching staff next season in some capacity.
“He’s gonna be a big part of our hitting infrastructure,” Hoyer said.