Theo Epstein is a Hall of Fame executive. In 2004, he broke the Curse of the Bambino in Boston. It had been 86 years since they had won a championship, yet he led them to two. In 2011, he left his job as Red Sox General Manager to become President of Baseball Operations of the Chicago Cubs.
Bringing Padres General Manager Jed Hoyer with him, the Cubs built a winner. They drafted well, bringing in players such as Kris Bryant and Javier Baez. They traded for players such as Jake Arietta, Travis Wood, Kyle Hendricks and Dexter Fowler. Their biggest trade coup was Anthony Rizzo, who had been drafted by Theo in Boston, but traded to San Diego by Hoyer. They made some savvy signings, such as Jon Lester, Ben Zobrist and David Ross. That and international free agent signings that include Willson Contreras and Jorge Soler led to the first championship for the Cubs in 108 seasons.
The Cubs, however, have done little since. Following an NLCS loss to the Dodgers in 2017, they lost in the Wild Card game in 2018 and missed the postseason altogether in 2019. They lost two games to the Marlins at Wrigley in the 2020 playoffs. Every deal that they make seems to bomb, including the contracts of players such as Tyler Chatwood and trades for players such as Jose Quintana. They have a high payroll with all of their players reaching the end of arbitration and a rough farmsystem.
Epstein, who had one year remaining on his deal, announced that he will step down today. He was set to make $10M in 2021 that he is now forfeiting. Hoyer will be the replacement. Theo issued the following statement:
“For the rest of my life, I will cherish having been part of the great Chicago Cubs organization during this historic period. All of the things that have made this experience so special, the fans, the players, the managers and coaches, ownership, my front office colleagues, the uniqueness of the Wrigley experience, the history, make it so tough to leave the Cubs. But I believe this is the right decision for me even if it’s a difficult one. And now is the right time rather than a year from now. The organization faces a number of decisions this winter that carry long-term consequences; those types of decisions are best made by someone who will be here for a long period rather than just one more year. Jed has earned this opportunity and is absolutely the right person to take over this baseball operation at such an important time.”
Potentially fits for the services of Theo Epstein would be two NL East division clubs. The Phillies have a GM opening in place of Matt Klentak and the Mets, recently bought by Steve Cohen, have cleaned house in their front office.