Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein, the executive who broke curses and brought World Series trophies to Chicago and Boston, is stepping down from his position effective Nov. 20.
The club announced the surprising news Tuesday, which was immediately followed by questions about Epstein’s next moves.
Theo Epstein will step down from his role as President of Baseball Operations effective Nov. 20 and depart the organization after nine seasons.
Jed Hoyer, who joined the club in Nov. 2011 as Executive VP/General Manager, will be named President of Baseball Operations. pic.twitter.com/SDeF826SFH
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) November 17, 2020
Jed Hoyer, Epstein’s right-hand man, will take over in Chicago. He was with Epstein in Boston, where they won a World Series. Hoyer was then co-general manager of the Red Sox when Epstein left, GM of the Padres afterward and then joined Epstein in Chicago as the Cubs’ GM.
Epstein spent nine years with the Cubs, without a doubt the biggest moment being the 2016 World Series title. But Epstein also made the Cubs a sustained contender — getting into the playoffs five times in those nine years and building that title team with a core of homegrown stars that included Kris Bryant, Javy Baez and Kyle Schwarber, all of whom are due to be free agents after next season.
The move isn’t a complete surprise, as Epstein’s contract was up after 2021 and he had intended to leave the Cubs then. In a statement, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts admitted as much:
“Theo and I have been communicating about this possible move for a couple of years, and we have been working together toward a transition that makes sense for the Cubs and for him,” said Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts. “The timing is right for a number of reasons, and most importantly we are both thrilled that Jed is the person succeeding Theo. We have had our most successful period in over a century under Theo’s leadership, and we are grateful for everything he has given to this organization and this city. Jed has been a big part of that success, too, and offers a combination of continuity and a fresh perspective that will serve us well as we look forward to another period of sustained success.”
What’s next for Theo Epstein?
When the news of Epstein stepping down hit, the immediate reaction was to connect him to high-profile executive jobs with the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies — although Epstein himself told people close to him that his plan is to take 2021 off.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that Epstein wrote a letter to friends explaining his decision and in it, talked about doing charity work in 2021 and spending time with his family.
In a letter sent today to friends, Theo Epstein outlined his reasons for leaving the Cubs. As far as him going to the Mets or Phillies, though -- well, this is from the letter: "Next summer will be my first in 30 years not clocking into work every day at a major league ballpark."
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 17, 2020
Epstein says in the letter he will spend time with family and work with non-profits, including his Foundation to Be Named Later and The Players Alliance.
"I do plan on having a third chapter leading a baseball organization someday, though I do not expect it to be next year."
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 17, 2020
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Epstein has previously talked about wanting to take an ownership stake in a team and run it from the very top.
Epstein leaves Cubs with big questions ahead
The Cubs now appear to be coming out of their World Series era with big questions about their core stars as they get closer to free agency. Epstein said in a statement that part of the reason he left now was because the Cubs face a transformative offseason.
“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,” Epstein said. “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.”
Jon Lester is a free agent now, but the real decisions loom with contract extensions for some of the Cubs’ core players.
Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber all free agents after the 2021 season, which means the Cubs would be wise to think about extending or trading some of them now.
Last week, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the Cubs are willing to “move almost any veteran.” So that means players like Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks, who are both on relatively team-friendly contracts, could be on the trade block too.
Now it’s up to Hoyer and his team to chart the future of the Cubs.
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