CARLSBAD, Calif. - Joe Maddon will be the manager of the Cubs in 2019, but nothing is set in stone beyond that.
Next season represents the final year of Maddon's contract with the Cubs and Theo Epstein said Monday at MLB's GM Meetings the team will not discuss an extension with the charismatic manager this winter.
Thus, Maddon is entering a "lame duck season" as manager, the term that floats around baseball circles indicating a guy is not signed beyond the upcoming season. It often can become a distraction that hovers over the team, but in an effort to try to limit any distraction it causes, Epstein wanted to make it clear to Maddon and his agent, Alan Nero, that no extension will be discussed this offseason.
"We're really focused - all of us - on digging in and finding ways to get the absolute most out of 2019," the Cubs president of baseball operations said. "We think we have a really talented team and there's a lot of things we can do to get more out of this group.
"That's where our focus is. Joe understood; Alan understood. ... We're not running away from Joe in the least bit, but given that we all have things we're working on to get more out of this team and to be one game better than we were last year, this is the appropriate move.
"We're sort of investing in improvement for this year and that's where our focus is. With Joe, we're not gonna do anything this winter and we'll look at it towards the end of next season."
Epstein said Maddon and the front office had a great meeting a few weeks after the Cubs' season ended in abrupt fashion and the general consensus from all sides is how motivated everybody is to avoid a similar conclusion in 2019.
Epstein also referenced his end-of-season press conference and specified his comments about the Cubs' lack of urgency and edge don't fall just on Maddon's shoulders.
"When I talk about bringing some of the things that we lacked last year and perhaps have lacked since the World Series, I'm talking about all of us," Epstein said. "I'm not talking about any one person. I'm talking about the organization as a whole - me individually; yes, the manager; the front office; all the players. Collectively, we have some work to do to be able to live up to the very high standards that we set."
Multiple times, Epstein referenced how 2019 is a "pivotal season" for the Cubs as a franchise as they try to shed the issues from the last couple years and move on to another year of World Series or bust expectations.
But that will mean making adjustments and learning from past failures, which is where Maddon comes in.
"Is Joe Maddon capable of making some adjustments? Absolutely," Epstein said emphatically. "I think he's the type of personality who's energized at the prospect of making adjustments and finding another level to get to and finding different ways to reach players.
"The game has changed a lot to reach players, even in the last five years, even in the time that he's been in Chicago. I mean, we're dealing with ultra-millennials here with our players and the way the game is played and how players process information and the way you have to communicate with them really has changed. So if you're not making adjustments, you're falling behind.
"And Joe is nothing if not open-minded. I think he relishes this as a challenge and as an opportunity to return to his roots where he's sort of in the middle of everything in the clubhouse that's going on and he's gonna be re-energized by this challenge, as we all are.
"Getting back to that feeling we all had walking back to the clubhouse after losing the Wild-Card game to Colorado, I think any self-respecting Cub will remember that feeling and look in the mirror and try to find a way to individually get at least one game better so that collectively, we can get a lot better. And that includes Joe. I'm excited to see him in action meeting this challenge."