Just hours after celebrating the Astros’ thrilling ALCS victory over the Yankees, Houston bench coach Joe Espada is headed to Chicago for a second interview with the Cubs, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports (Twitter link). For now, Espada is the only one of the Cubs’ six managerial candidates to be brought back for a second interview, greatly elevating his chances of becoming the next dugout boss at Wrigley Field. Indeed, as MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian writes, Espada and former Cubs catcher David Ross “are widely considered the top two candidates for the post.”
It should be noted that a formal second interview might not necessarily be required for three of the other known Cubs candidates, since they all currently work for the organization — bench coach Mark Loretta, first base coach Will Venable, and Ross, a special assistant to the baseball operations department. As Bastian puts it, “the Cubs know what they have in-house in Ross. A second interview with Espada will help the franchise get a better sense of what he brings to the table, too.”
Espada has been a popular managerial candidate this winter, as the Giants and Pirates have also shown interest in speaking with the 44-year-old about their own open manager positions. There hasn’t yet been any indication that Espada has interviewed with either of those clubs, however, though obviously Espada hasn’t had a lot of free time for interviews in recent weeks given the Astros’ continued postseason run.
Moving into the “second interview” phase would seem to hint that the Cubs are approaching an end to their search, though a formal announcement about a hiring may not come until after the World Series, as the league prefers teams to wait until postseason off-days to announce major news in order to keep the focus of the baseball world entirely on the Fall Classic. This isn’t to say that the Cubs couldn’t announce Espada’s hiring on a World Series off-day, of course, or that he could be hired before his Astros’ tenure is officially over. In fact, Alex Cora (Espada’s predecessor as Houston’s bench coach) was hired by the Red Sox as their next manager in the days leading up to the Astros beginning play in the 2017 World Series.