On Monday, the Cubs made Craig Counsell the highest-paid manager in MLB history — by a wide margin.
When his contract with the Brewers expired after the season, the Cubs swooped in and signed Counsell to a staggering five-year, $40 million deal. The $8 million annual average doubles the record $4 million made by Bruce Bochy with the Padres.
Counsell, who managed Milwaukee for nine seasons and led the small-market Brewers to the playoffs five times in the last six years, has been vocal in the past that managers were woefully underpaid.
His new contract with the Cubs should make many of his colleagues much richer in the coming seasons, but Counsell said leaving the Brewers is about more than money.
“Look, I just wanted the market to decide,” Counsell told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “That’s it. I think as I went through this process, it became clear that I needed and wanted a new professional challenge.”
Money matters to the Cubs front office as it does to the Brewers.
Although the Cubs’ annual salary is always higher than Milwaukee’s, Counsell has had far more success as a manager than David Ross, who the Cubs fired on Monday to create the opening in the hole.
Stealing a classic line from former football coach Bum Phillips when talking about Paul “The Bear” Bryant, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer had this to say about the 53-year-old adviser at GM meetings in Phoenix this week, “He’s going to take his and beat yours and he will take yours and defeat his.”
Counsell was a fakir during the regular season, but the Brewers lost 9 of their last 10 playoff games when he was in the gym.
The postseason failure apparently didn’t sway Hoyer to go all-in on Counsell.
“It felt like an extremely difficult decision, but I felt like I had to make it if there was an opportunity,” Hoyer said. “It’s not a knock on Rossi, who I think incredibly highly, but Craig is at the very top of his game. It’s hard to rank managers but he’s at the top of the game.”
The Cubs have been gradually increasing payroll since knocking off the powerhouse team that won the 2016 World Series.
Now that they’ve spent big on their new manager, will they follow suit and target free agent Shohei Ohtani and other top talent?
“I don’t think with (Counsell) we’re signaling that we’re going to have some crazy, aggressive offseason,” Hoyer said. “But of course, I really like our position. And if there are moves, even big moves, that will help us continue that trajectory, we will definitely do it.
“But I don’t think it’s a signal that somehow we’re going to have the biggest and boldest offseason. If we do, it’s because things worked out for us.”