The Cubs’ coaching staff shakeup continued this offseason with pitching coach Jim Hickey leaving for personal reasons, according to a statement from the Cubs.
Hickey – a Chicago native – spent just the one year as pitching coach of the Cubs after serving in the same capacity with the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays for 11 seasons.
“Jim Hickey notified us yesterday of his decision to step down as pitching coach and leave the organization for personal reasons,” Theo Epstein said in the team’s statement. “We thank Jim for his season with the Cubs and his positive impact on our pitchers. Jim has our full support and we all wish him well.”
Hickey’s departure from the Cubs has been rumored for weeks before he stepped down of his own accord three days before Thanksgiving.
Still, this is another surprising shakeup on the Cubs coaching staff after Epstein stressed the importance of continuity within the organization following the Cubs’ final game.
Since being ousted from the postseason after the National League Wild-Card contest, the Cubs have already replaced their hitting coach – hiring Anthony Iapoce for the departed Chili Davis – watched their assistant hitting coach (Andy Haines) leave for a promotion with division rival Milwaukee and are now in the same boat on the pitching staff, creating a situation where there will be a third different voice coaching pitchers in the span of roughly a calendar year.
In Hickey’s one year with the Cubs, the bullpen led baseball in ERA but faded down the stretch due in part to injuries and overuse. The rotation struggled in the first half, ranking 26th in the league in innings pitching as a unit, too often failing to pitch deep into ballgames. But the starting staff stabilized once the Cubs traded for Cole Hamels and was a major strength of the team for the final two months of 2018.
In this Thanksgiving-themed episode of the Cubs Talk Podcast, Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan, and Tony Andracki discuss what they’re most thankful for relating to the Cubs (1:00), with responses ranging from the upgrades at Wrigley Field to the hiring of Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon.
Then, in a nod to Black Friday, our panel debates the best deals the Cubs have ever made (7:10), including trades for Sammy Sosa, Ryne Sandberg, Jake Arrieta and more. Plus, Kap tells us how Harry Caray came to be the Cubs announcer after many years with the White Sox (15:00).
Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:
Tuesday night was the deadline to set 40-man rosters in advance of the Rule 5 Draft and the Cubs made a flurry of moves with that in mind.
Earlier in the day the Cubs claimed pitcher Ian Clarkin off waivers from the White Sox. They followed up by trading Jason Vosler to the Padres for right-handed pitcher Rowan Wick.
Wick, who turned 26 less than two weeks ago, got a call-up late in 2018 with the Padres. He made his MLB debut on Aug. 31 and totaled 10 appearances out of the bullpen. He had a 6.48 ERA in 8 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts and just one walk. The improved control was a good sign after Wick walked 31 batters in 54 innings between Double-A and Triple-A earlier in the season, but he gave up 13 hits in the majors.
Going the other way, Vosler is a 25-year-old infielder who had been in the Cubs organization since getting drafted in 2014. He worked his way up to Triple-A this past season. Vosler hit .263/.306/.458 for the Iowa Cubs in 63 games.
The Cubs also added left-handed pitcher Justin Steele to the 40-man roster. Steele was a fifth-round pick of the Cubs out of high school in 2014 and came from injury in 2018. He made 11 starts between rookie ball, Single-A and Double-A before recently pitching in the Arizona Fall League.
Clarkin, Steele and Wick join the 40-man roster for the Cubs, which now stands at 39.
In addition to Vosler exiting, the Rangers claimed Jack Reinheimer off waivers from the Cubs. The Cubs had claimed Reinheimer off waivers from the Mets on Nov. 2. Outfielder Johnny Field and left-handed pitcher Jerry Vasto, both of which were claimed off waivers since the 2018 season ended, both cleared waivers and been assigned outright to Triple-A Iowa.