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‘We’re solving for wins’: How Cubs manager Craig Counsell is adjusting to new role

3 months agoAndy Martinez

Last week, both Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins walked into the Cubs offices, passed by a set of cubicles where the front office’s research and development department sits and spotted a new face.

Sitting at one of the computers was a man with a hat and glasses on, wearing a hoodie with Jordan shoes to complete the look.

“Who’s our new R&D guy?” Hawkins thought.

The pair looked closer and realized it was their new manager, Craig Counsell.

“It was funny,” Hoyer said. “I literally thought it was an R&D guy for a second. [He] played 17 years in the big leagues.”

Counsell was familiarizing himself with the Cubs’ internal system and interface, seeing how they kept information stored and could like up data on players and opponents. When Hawkins realized it was Counsell, the new manager had some feedback.

[WATCH: Craig Counsell’s media session from Winter Meetings]

“One of the first things he was telling me was like, ‘I don’t like this interface on this particular program that we have. I don’t understand why this is displayed in this way,’” Hawkins said. “It’s kind of like, ‘Yeah, I’m getting a little defensive here, but yeah you’re probably right.’”

It speaks to the working dynamic that Counsell, Hoyer, Hawkins and the rest of the Cubs front office are building. No one is looking to simply appease one another. They’re all trying to achieve the same goal — more wins for the Cubs. If that means butting heads along the way, so be it.

“It’s nice to get some people that think different and have had different experiences,” Hoyer said. “We can definitely learn from that. One aspect about Craig, he’s not afraid to tell us when it’s that way.”

Counsell has spent the first month or so of his tenure with the Cubs familiarizing himself with the organization. He’s still living in Wisconsin and is commuting once a week to Chicago to the Wrigley Field offices. When he’s not in Chicago, he’s on video calls talking with Hoyer and Hawkins and learning all aspects of the organization.

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It’s easy to know what someone like Dansby Swanson or Yan Gomes will bring to the team, but Counsell wants to dig in beyond that. There are prospects in the minor leagues on the cusp of the majors who could contribute, and he wants to make sure he knows who he could be counting on to help his team in July or August when injuries or struggles occur.

“Getting a good feel for those players is almost more critical at this time of the year than the former,” Counsell said. “It’s definitely research at this point, and just talking to people around the organization.”

Hoyer has praised Counsell’s knack for front office perception. Last month, Hoyer said Counsell was one of the few people he thought could be both a manager and a general manager or high-ranking front office official. Counsell has shown that ability thus far.

The Cubs are in a crucial period in the offseason where they’re looking to build a roster and team that can improve on 2023. That’s being done through free agency and the trade market.

“We’re solving for wins,” Counsell said. “If you can get one player that adds up to a lot of wins, that’s helpful. There’s no question about it. But you’re solving for wins and that’s a puzzle you’re putting together.

That’s the hard part about roster building and it’s the challenge that every team faces in an offseason with player movement.”

Counsell’s voice and experience will be heard, too. He’s shown that — even if he might be confused for an R&D analyst.

“I’m the outside eyes and I’m gonna come in and — I have opinions and I’m going to share them,” Counsell said. “I think that’s healthy.

“That’s why I’m here: to try to help the Cubs win games. You do that by making things better in every possible way you can.”

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