The Cubs’ 15-year deal with NBC Sports Chicago is set to expire at the end of 2019, so they plan to launch their own regional sports network in time for the 2020 season, president of business operations Crane Kenney told Jordan Bastian of MLB.com and other reporters Saturday. “We are going to have our own channel. We’ve got a seat at a much larger table, so we’ve been involved in conversations not locally, but more nationally, on how we’ll launch our channel and who we’ll launch it with,” said Kenney, who added the Cubs “will do it with a strategic partner” and that “the details of that will be more apparent in probably the next 30 days.” Kenney also hinted that another baseball team will be involved, though he revealed it won’t be a local club, according to Bastian.
Here’s more on the North Siders:
- Even though the Cubs won’t pursue an extension with Joe Maddon this offseason, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Saturday he wants the manager to stick around beyond 2019. “I sure hope so,” said Epstein, who, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune writes, is “betting that Maddon remains as manager past this season.” The Cubs have been resoundingly successful in their four years under Maddon, who will turn 65 in February, as they’ve gone 387-261 with a playoff appearance in each season, two NL Central titles and their drought-breaking World Series championship in 2016.
- Maddon indicated earlier this week that the Cubs aren’t going to sign free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper, and third baseman Kris Bryant threw more cold water on that possibility Saturday (via Bastian). “He’s not signing here,” Bryant said of Harper, a longtime friend who had been a speculative target for the Cubs entering the offseason. However, because the Cubs are seemingly maxed out on spending, they haven’t been in the Harper market this winter. The team’s easily slated to run a franchise-record Opening Day payroll in 2019, as Jason Martinez of Roster Resource estimates, and Epstein “emphasized” Saturday that he can’t go over budget, per Gonzales.
- Epstein also spoke this week about shortstop Addison Russell, who, to the disgust of many observers, remains in the Cubs’ plans despite incurring a 40-game suspension for domestic violence. As Patrick Mooney of The Athletic relays in a subscription piece, Epstein stated Friday that the Cubs’ initial reaction was to move on from Russell. But they’re instead primed to keep the 24-year-old Russell and pay him a $3.4MM salary, in part because Epstein learned that “domestic violence experts do not believe in zero tolerance.” Rather, they advocate “a second chance if the offender is willing (to) do the difficult work of stabilizing his life and relationships and growing so this doesn’t happen again.” The Cubs are giving Russell that second chance, though Epstein noted “people have the right to boo” Russell, and the team’s prepared to “move on instantaneously” from him if he squanders his opportunity. Notably, Epstein added that Melisa Reidy, Russell’s ex-wife whose abuse allegations led to his suspension, was supportive of the Cubs’ choice to keep him in the fold, saying: “She felt like this was Addison’s best chance to get his life in order and get support from us with the incentive of earning his way back to the Cubs.”