We all know the name, the person and the title – Theo Epstein: President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs.
We also know that Epstein’s has a bit of traction to his reputation after guiding the Boston Red Sox to 2 World Series Titles when their supposed “cursed” organization was in dire need of a championship.
To say the Cubs are in “dire need” of a championship title would be putting it lightly at this point. Fans have been thirsty for a title for decades and a series of off color events and upper-level mismanagement has deprived the Cubs and their fans from baseball’s ultimate prize. However, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts hit a theoretical homerun when he landed Epstein for the job.
It was like going out and getting the best free agent for a wicked deal. Awesome.
Epstein knows how to win and has a very set strategy which includes a complete and total rebuild. This is essentially the polar opposite of what the modern day LA Dodgers are doing in collecting free agents with no spending limit in sight.
To build a championship team, you need a core set of players that are reliable, dedicated and subscribe to the team’s overall goals. Epstein is now seeing that core come to fruition:
We’re certainly farther along than we were last year at this time. When we got here, we identified one core player (Starlin Castro) and now we can look around and see Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney, Jeff Samardzija , and others.
This quote makes me rest easy at night as it shows that Epstein’s overall plans are coming together smoothly. There have been some minor set backs through the last year which inhibit the overall process, but most of these are negligible because Epstein and his staff have done their homework. Things look solid for a year’s worth of progress.
If I had to wager who Epstein is talking about when he says others? I’d say he means guys like Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Arodys Vizcaino (pending his health) and Albert Almora, most of which could be playing in the majors by 2015. Regardless of who breaks the big league ranks first, you know all of these young men will have a significant impact on the team.
While a well stocked farm system is a valuable asset to any team, no good rebuild is done entirely from within. Free agents will have to be signed in order to plug holes that arise, and Epstein shocked a few baseball folks by signing Edwin Jackson during the offseason. The deal, which didn’t please everyone, again shows how Epstein has an edge on the market and is methodically planning the team’s next moves well in advance. There was a simple gap in pitching and Epstein got the best value he could for this team – which is infinitely better than stagnation. Epstein’s comments seem to back this outlook:
We do have more positional prospects than pitchers, so we felt Jackson will be with us for many years to come.
What makes Epstein valuable to this team is his vision. There are smaller goals set out within a larger overall goal and this progression is what leads to success. Sure, the flair of Epstein winning in Boston resonated with Cubs’ fans to start, but it’s important not to lose sight of how this new plan is being implemented in Chicago.
I think, initially, what I’d been through in Boston was of interest to our fan base. But I think they have bought into our plan and our vision. People are excited about good young players and we hope to keep adding to it and get to the point where we’re an exciting contending team year in and year out.
So how far off are the Cubs from achieving the obvious World Series goal? Work still needs to be done, but the cards for success have been laid. A solid farm system producing a bulk of potential all-star quality players can easily be patched up with free agents and make a run at the Commissioners Trophy. The Cubs’ are arguably only a few good bats away from being a .500 team.
Not bad for a year’s worth of progress. The next year can only bring more excitement for Cubs fans.