Theo Epstein Heads to the Windy City to Lead the Cubs
Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): On October 12, 2011, Theo Epstein, former GM of the Boston Red Sox agreed to a 5 year deal worth more than $15M. With the Chicago Cubs. This all comes as no real surprise to anyone, as it had been speculated since the Cubs fired GM Jim Hendry in August that Epstein was their top target. The real surprise is that Epstein and the Boston Red Sox’s falling out happened so swiftly. Within two weeks of the Red Sox collapse, which has been widely discussed by everyone in baseball circles, manager Terry Francona and the team parted ways, as well as, now, their general manager Theo Epstein.
It has been well-documented that Epstein was able to overcome the “Curse of the Bambino” by employing a bunch of “idiots” in the locker room that went on to win a World Series in 2004. This mentality has been a similar mantra of the Red Sox throughout his tenure. Because they won in 2004, and also in 2007, it was completely acceptable for players to do what they pleased in the locker room. Now that the epic collapse took place, the organization needed a change, and true accountability never took place for the Red Sox.
Epstein is a GM of great stature. He is trusted and many people believe in his abilities. He employs a “Moneyball” type strategy, which is also aided by having a large payroll, something he will also have the ability to create in Chicago. Ownership of the Cubs have not been afraid to spend money, and most of the time have put themselves in unfortunate situations.
Two contracts come to mind when I think of the Cubs. Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano. Prior to the 2007 season, Soriano inked a contract worth $136M over 8 years. In 2007, Zambrano signed an extension for the 2008-2012 seasons, with a vesting option for 2013 worth $91.5M. Epstein has a lot of work cut out for him with an aging, mediocre core, but finding a suitor for these two players, or finding a way for them to produce and not be distractions in the clubhouse is paramount.
Another major task for him is to figure out what he wants to do with incumbent manager, Mike Quade. Quade was hired as the Cubs’ interim manager on August 22, 2010, and in October, the interim title was stripped. Quade led the Cubs to a 71-91 record and a 5th place finish in the NL Central, only ahead of the lowly Houston Astros. This record was tied for the 5th worst in all of baseball. When Quade was hired, much to the dismay of Cubs fans, who wanted Ryne Sandberg to take the helm, he was highly regarded as a smart, methodical baseball thinker. Was the year and month enough of a trial, or will Epstein want to bring in his own talent to manage this struggling franchise?
Epstein will also consider bringing in his own front office, using members from his group with the Red Sox. With news breaking that Senior Vice President and Assistant General Manager Ben Cherington will take over as GM in Boston, Epstein will be fighting to bring his favorite guys over with him.
The last thing holding up this deal is compensation for the Red Sox. Since Epstein had one year remaining on his contract with Boston, the Cubs had to ask permission to even speak with him. Epstein had made it known to the organization that he would be leaving after 2012, so the Red Sox allowed talks to run smoothly, as they would have owed him $3M for the season, and a contract bonus of $4M. Cash and/or prospects will easily get the job done.
The deal has not yet been completed due to some of these complications, but should be done by the beginning of next week. Epstein will have a major challenge in Chicago, as they are not even close to competing. Major decisions need to be made, and even with his high level of competency, it will take up to five years for the Cubs to be a major contender in the NL Central.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***
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Posted on October 13, 2011, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged 2004, 2007, astros, bambino, baseball, boston, cherington, chicago, cubs, curse, francona, free agent, general manager, idiot, legacy, mlb, moneyball, postseason, quade, red sox, soriano, theo epstein, trade, world series, zambrano. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.