Theo Epstein, the GM who used Moneyball theories to cobble together* World Series-winning teams for the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007, is leaving to become GM of the Chicago Cubs. Unconfirmed reports this morning pegged the deal at five years for $15 million, but Buster Olney says the figure is closer to $20 million.
How long will it take Epstein to make over that roster? The Cubs haven’t made the postseason since 2008, and haven’t won a playoff game since 2003.
The offense is led by three players, age 33-or-older from the DR: 1 strikeout king (Carlos Pena), 1 with an awful contract (Alfonso Soriano) and 1 broken down 3B whose last three years have been plagued by injuries (Aramis Ramirez). The Cubs only have two regular hitters under the age of 27 in the lineup: Barney and Castro. Their bats must get younger.
Besides taking the Cubs job for the obvious – money and to be That Guy who brought titles to long-starved Boston and Chicago (if he pulls it off in Chicago, Epstein will be the most famous GM in baseball history) – I’d guess this job was attractive to Epstein because the Cubs potentially have quality pitching. Dempster/Garza/Wells are a nice trio. Zambrano is a nut-job, and I surmise he won’t be back. Marmol is erratic, but when you combine him with Samardzija (Notre Dame represent) and Marshall, you’ve got a nice pen, too. The farm system isn’t loaded with prospects, but pitcher Trey McNutt is considered a Top 100 guy and outfielder Brett Jackson might be worth a look in 2012.
The best news here for Cubs fans – the White Sox will go back to being irrelevant without Ozzie Guillen mouthing off, and everyone will be closely watching the Cubs rebuild. Toss in the fact that the Astros will be continue to be a mess for a few more years, the Cardinals could lose Pujols this offseason, and the Brewers could lose Fielder this offseason, and Epstein could feasibly have the Cubs back in the postseason in 2012 (though I think 2013 is more realistic).
* Moneyball, but for the rich: The Red Sox actually spent money, unlike Billy Beane’s Athletics. In 2004, Boston was 2nd in payroll ($125 million) and in 2007 Boston was 2nd in payroll ($143 million).