Today the Chicago Cubs announced what everyone had been expecting all along, President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein would be stepping down from his role, and General Manager Jed Hoyer would take over in Epstein’s role.
The other thing that wouldn’t come as a shock would be Jason McLeod, who has been SVP of Player Personnel, moving into the GM role. This would make sense too, as McLeod has been a perennial guy who interviews for other GM gigs without actually getting one.
Of course, probably the best option outside the organization was taken off the table last week, as Kim Ng took the Marlins GM gig.
What Epstein managed to do in his nine years with the Cubs cannot be viewed as anything other than the most successful era in the history of the franchise. He built a team from scratch that not only won the 2016 World Series, but made NLCS appearances in 2015 and 2017, and postseason appearances in 2018 and 2020.
Of course, the great “what if” with the Epstein era will always be the Ricketts family tightening the purse strings as soon as the confetti was swept off Michigan Avenue. Epstein and Hoyer have been hamstrung by budget constraints for years, having to cobble together rosters on nickels and dimes (contracts to Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood and Craig Kimbrel being the only exceptions) for the past four years.
Now Hoyer has the unenviable task of looking at a Corvette that is burning oil and rattling. Can he fix it or is he just going to strip it for parts? There’s currently a year standing between here and free agency for Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. He has to figure out what to do there, as the chances of the Ricketts family giving him the budget to keep all are far more remote than slim and none combined.
In fact, the fact that Epstein’s resignation is effective Friday means that he could give Hoyer some cover by making an incredibly unpopular decision (such as non-tendering Schwarber), and Hoyer can absolve himself from blame.
When the ballpark is able to be inhabited by actual fans again, the team must bring Epstein back for some sort of ceremony where the fans can show their appreciation. He’s certainly earned that, just as his success in Boston and Chicago has gotten him a date in Cooperstown at some point in the future.
But in the meantime, Thanks Theo. You did good.