Cubs Agree to Deal With Theo Epstein

The Chicago Cubs have agreed to a five year deal with current Boston Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein, according to John Dennis of WEEI.  The move fills the open General Manager spot for the Cubs, and doesn’t mean good things for the Pirates.

Obviously we know Epstein’s legacy in Boston.  The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and again in 2007.  The Cubs don’t have as much to spend as the Red Sox, but they have enough.  The thing about spending money is that it doesn’t really buy championships.  It helps to overcome mistakes, such as signing Alfonso Soriano to a deal that pays him $18 M annually from 2010-2014.  However, if you want to win, you still need to make smart moves.  If you get a smart General Manager in there, it’s much easier to make those smart moves.

The Cubs were on a downward path in the NL Central prior to this move.  They had an expensive roster with players who looked to be on the decline (Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster).  They potentially have holes to fill at first base, third base, and right field this off-season.  They also need pitching, after seeing Rodrigo Lopez make 16 starts in 2011, and after seeing Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster put up ERAs in the 4.80 range. Their 2011 roster was not what you’d expect from nearly a $120 M payroll.

Epstein will inherit the contracts of Dempster ($14 M in 2012), Zambrano ($18 M in 2012, $19.25 M in 2013), and Soriano ($18 M in 2012-2014).  However, he will have Matt Garza for two years, has at least $30 M coming off the books with the departure of Carlos Pena, Aramis Ramirez, and John Grabow, and has holes to fill at first, third, right field, and the rotation.  That sort-of blank slate is an advantage, as it will allow Epstein to build his team quicker.

A team like the Pirates needs every advantage they can get.  One advantage was that the Cubs were poorly run, which negated their high payrolls.  That might not be an advantage for much longer.  A big payroll doesn’t guarantee winning, but if you get a smart General Manager in there, and you give him a lot of funds to work with, you’re very likely to see the results.

  • I have to wonder if Theo would bring his x manager along, Terry is available?

  • I don’t think this has much to do with the Pirates, they need to take care of their own business. Epstein still built a team that fell apart at the end of the year, just a little later than the Pirates did.
    I do believe he has a mess to clean up in Chicago, but I also believe he will make a run at Fielder or Pulols and probably land one of them, they have the money to do it.

  • What a joke you are,  ” The thing about spending money is that it doesn’t really buy championships.” Yes but it gets people to the stadium to watch your team, it gets people to buy more stuff with your name on it and it gets you to playoffs most of the time.  We all know we can’t spend 80 million but getting to 60 or 70 would be a start.  This franchise is a joke and I am tired of defending them only to see them make excuses and continuing to lose. 

    • Wow. Someone is upset this afternoon.

      • Yes, I am, but it has been brewing for 19 years.  We can’t continue to make excuses for them, they need to spend more money, they need to get better scouts and they need to start winning, ASAP.  I can’t even explain to you how excited I was first half of this season when they were playing winning baseball, I hope to experience that for an entire season at some point.  

        • I’m just being realistic.  The Cubs hired a great GM.  That’s not good for the Pirates, or any other team in the NL Central. This article just pointing out the facts.  You’ve got a team that can spend $120 M a year, and now they’ve got a competent General Manager.  What the Pirates need to do to compete is a totally different subject.  It’s a stretch to try and combine the two topics.  The only relationship they have is that this move by the Cubs makes the division that much harder.

          • My point is that it wouldn’t be as hard if our FO knew how to run the team correctly.  

            • Again, this isn’t a topic about the front office. It’s a topic about the strength of the division, and how one team got stronger. The ability of the front office is irrelevant in this discussion. Whether you consider them good or bad, it doesn’t change how tough the division is.

              • Agree Tim…and the Astros are quickly rebuilding their system also. They have a good owner and won’t stay bad for long.

          • No offense, Tim, but I’m struggling to figure out how he is a “great” GM.  Can we get a different brand of sabermetrics to evaluate GM performance, such as to compare the management of league’s second highest payroll versus a payroll in the bottom ten or five teams?  

            Just like we know to take caution when evaluating a player who hit a lot of home runs in the desert, so should we be careful to evaluate a GM regularly working with the league’s second highest payroll, when the third highest is a distant third.

            The GM of Tampa, boy lately he’s been a great GM.

        • Bob, I don’t know if you have seen how much money they have spent on the draft the last 4 years but it is the most in the majors. Spend 40-50 mil on the draft and latin america or or spend 40-50 mil on 3-4 star players a year? The Pirates don’t have a choice but to develop from within where 40 mil will buy you an army of prospects and hopefully 15-20 solid major leaguers that they can control for 6,7,8 years.

  • I am growing tired of your articles making excuses for Pirates sucking.  They suck, we need to place blame where it belongs, FO, GM, Hitting coach.

  • Whatever, this article is BS.  If Pirates FO did the right things and hired the right people it wouldn’t matter how much the Cubs spent.  Bringing back a hitting coach that led our team to last place in almost every offensive category is exactly the type of dumb move and is why the Buccos have had 19 straight losing seasons, not b/c of another teams GM.  When will we start placing blame where it belongs????

  • Smart General Manager or the League’s Second Highest Payroll?

    2004 WS:  $125 M (2nd highest)
    2007 WF:  $143 M (2nd highest)

    If Epstein win with an run of the mill $80 M payroll, then I’ll be impressed at his acumen.  

    Spending more money compared to the rest of the league, does buy playoff appearances and championships over the long term, compared to not doing it. 

    • If it’s just the payroll, then why weren’t they winning before Epstein?

      Yes, the payroll gives you a considerable advantage, but it doesn’t walk you to the finish line.  You’ve still got to compete with other teams that have big payrolls.

    • Epstein has always done a good job with the minor leagues with the Sox also. Carl Crawford and Lackey let him down bigtime. They started 0-6 or 1-8 or something and ended about the same. Francona and his staff definitely deserve much of the blame. Epstein will get plenty of money  to spend with the Cubs also so whether he is a wiz kid or not may always be somewhat up in the air. But if he gets the Cubs to the world series after getting the Sox there that says a lot. The first thing he needs to do is eat most of Zambrano’s salary and ship him out of town. Get the biggest cancer out of the way.