(MCT) — NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Astros broadcaster Jim Deshaies was the surprise choice as the Cubs' new TV analyst Monday, receiving a four-year deal to replace Bob Brenly alongside play-by-play man Len Kasper.
Deshaies, 52, has some big shoes to fill in the Cubs' broadcast booth, after Steve Stone and Brenly endeared themselves to fans over the years with their blunt criticism of players and the team itself.
"Anytime you take a new job, it's a challenge," Deshaies said. "I know the fans are going to have to get to know me. I know there's going to be a little pressure, but I feel very comfortable and am looking forward to it."
Deshaies, a former Astros pitcher who spent the last 16 years in Houston's TV booth, signed a four-year contract worth in excess of $2 million, according to sources. He'll be introduced Wednesday at a news conference at Wrigley Field.
The Astros never were really competitive with their offer, one source said, believing Deshaies' ties to the organization would keep him from leaving. Dan Plesac, Rick Sutcliffe, Eric Karros and Todd Hollandsworth were among the candidates considered for the Cubs' opening, along with Mark DeRosa, who is undecided as to whether to continue playing. Some candidates pulled out after initially showing interest.
Kasper, who was consulted in the decision and gave Deshaies a big thumbs-up, said he'll be a perfect partner.
"JD is universally liked and respected throughout the game, and I've always enjoyed his work," Kasper said. "He knows the Cubs well, having done 15-18 Cubs-Astros games a year, and will blend in nicely. I look forward to working with him and building the chemistry that is essential in any broadcast booth."
Bob Vorwald, director of productions for WGN-TV, interviewed the candidates along with Cubs business President Crane Kenney. Deshaies' lack of Cubs ties was not a factor in the search, Vorwald said, pointing out that Kasper and Brenly didn't have any strong Cubs ties, except for Brenly's brief radio stint with WGN-AM 720 in 1990-91.
"He's the great fit we were looking for," Vorwald said. "He knows the division, having been here for 16 years. He knows Wrigley, knows our team, knows how to teach and he's funny. And he has a passion for the game."
Deshaies' sense of humor will be necessary if the Cubs are anywhere near as bad as they were in 2012, when they lost 101 games. Kasper and Brenly managed to keep the broadcasts watchable in spite of an unwatchable team on the field. Brenly left after the season to replace Mark Grace in the Diamondbacks' TV booth, after failing to come to an agreement on a contract extension with the Cubs.
Brenly was in a similar situation in 2005, replacing the popular Stone after the acrimonious ending to the 2004 season. But Brenly quickly won over fans with his outspokenness, quick wit and the solid chemistry between him and Kasper.
"I read a lot about Bob, and it's kind of what I do," Deshaies said. "I try and have fun and entertain at the same time. I treat it like a group of people hanging out in the living room together.
"I don't want to be that guy where they're changing the channel and saying 'You're driving me nuts.' But maybe when it's 9-2 or something like that they'll say, 'Hey, let's stay tuned and maybe he'll make us laugh.' I don't think I'm that unique."
Deshaies said it was a "very tough" decision to leave Houston.
"The Astros have been very good to me and I've spent the lion's share of my life here. As an Astros guy, I was very hesitant to leave. As a baseball guy, going to the Cubs and watching games at Wrigley Field, I look at that job as the best in the game."