Tom Ricketts is a boss. Despite being constantly criticized for having a lack of baseball knowledge–which now looks like a naive argument–the Cubs owner may be on the verge of completing the greatest front office coup in the history of Major League Baseball. But before we go into more detail about how the Cubs’ potential front office moves, lets first take a look at how we got to this point.
The Cubs pursuit of Theo Epstein, indirectly began when the Rickett family took over control of the organization from the Chicago Tribune company. Ricketts laid out a blueprint of success that was similar to the path that Epstein set in Boston by winning the World Series title in 2004 and 2007. Ricketts, along with team president Crane Kenney visited Fenway Park on numerous occasions to get a first hand account of how to succesfful turn a stadium into a leading revenue source for an organization. That has always been the intention of Ricketts; to turn Wrigley Field into the Fenway Park of the Midwest. While Epstein was strictly involved in baseball operations, he was aware of the process the Red Sox took to renovate Fenway Park.
Fast forward to this season, Ricketts decision to let former general manager Jim Hendry to continue operating through the signing deadline for the draft was one that should not go overlooked. The Cubs spent over $12 million in draft signings this season, that willingness by Ricketts to spend more than the normal amount is what allowed Scouting Director Tim Wilken to go after players who have a high potential, but scared away teams because of being labeled as tough signs.
Though, the true stroke of genius for Ricketts came after he officially fired Hendry as the Cubs’ general manager. While setting out the criteria for the Cubs’ next general manager, Ricketts without directly mentioned Epstein by name, alluded to the idea that Epstein would be his top candidate. While most media members laughed off that notion, Ricketts worked behind the scenes waiting for the chance to jump on Epstein once the Red Sox season concluded and their general manager seemingly became available. Sure enough Epstein did become available, and it only took one day for Ricketts–after being granted permission from the Red Sox organization–to convince the Red Sox mastermind to come to the Cubs on a five year, $2o million dollar contract.
While the Cubs and Red Sox finalize the compensation package to be sent to Boston for allowing Epstein to join the Cubs’ organization, it appears that Epstein is quietly trying to put in place a general manager to operate under him with the Cubs’ organization. It now is becoming increasingly clear that Epstein will operate under the president of baseball operations label, and then hand pick his general manager. After news first broke of Epstein agreeing to join the Cubs’ organization, the original thought was that Padres vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes will also be joining the Cubs’ organization. Byrnes will likely be a general manager next season, though, the chances are it will be with the San Diego Padres. Reason being because current Padre’s general manager Jed Hoyer will likely take up the same position with the Cubs. While nothing is official, Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated tweeets that most baseball people expect Hoyer to be one who joins Epstein rather than Byrnes.
The traditional rumor caveat applies, but if true, a front office that included both Epstein and Hoyer is when that is bound to turn any organization into perennial contender, and soon to be World Series contender. Epstein and Hoyer flourished together in Boston, with the Red Sox winning the 2004 World Series being the primary piece of evidence of their success together. Hoyer’s time with the Padres as general manager is too brief to judge. Hoyer was named the Padres’ general manager after the 2009 season, and the Padres enjoyed a 90 win season during Hoyer’s first year. However, after losing Adrian Gonzalez, Hoyer’s Padres struggled this season as they once again were in the cellar in the National League West. But Hoyer specializes in sabermetrics, which is something Ricketts put an emphasis on while he was naming the qualities he was looking for out of the next general manager of the Cubs.
Once the Epstein deal is finalized, which could be as early as tomorrow, I would expect that an announcement of Hoyer becoming the Cubs’ general manager will be coming shortly after that. After years of observing an inept front office, Cubs’ fans will now be witnesses to one of the–if not–the best front office in all of baseball. Dare I channel my inner Lebron James and claim that the Cubs “are not going to win 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6. but 7” World Series titles? Well, lets just start with making the playoffs first.