The honeymoon period for president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer, and vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod is coming to an end. No longer is the attention exclusively on the Boston Three Party but rather what the trio of executives are doing to improve the Cubs. The early focus appears to be on international free agents, with Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and Japanese starting pitcher Yu Darvish appearing to be the team’s top two targets. But while both Cespedes and Darvish would improve the Cubs for the long-term future, most fans want to know what will be accomplished in the short-term. Whether it is their own nearsightedness or not, fans–especially Cubs’ fans–are quick to judge new acquisitions. With the quick judgement, that also brings with it the question of whether not the fan-base should trust Epstein and company?
On the surface, that question seems highly naive. After-all, Epstein, Hoyer, and McLeod were leading revolutionaries in the Boston Red Sox organization leading the Red Sox to two world series in the past decade. However, depending on what radio station you listen to on your drive to work–or college in my case–Epstein and rest of the Cubs’ front office may have already made their first mistake.
That mistake comes in the form of hiring Dale Sveum as the new Cubs’ manager. Though, most fans may be coming to that realization because Sveum is not the same familiar last name that Sandberg is or Maddux is. Just because Sveum was not a known commodity within the Cubs’ universe, does not necessarily mean he was a bad hire as the Cubs’ manager. While Sveum was not the Cubs’ first choice, he was the primary choice of the Red Sox. Granted, Epstein may have had an influence on the Red Sox managerial search conducted by newly appointed Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington. The bottom-line is that Sveum has been a top managing candidate, since he brought the Milwaukee Brewers to the 2008 National League Divisional Series while operating as the Brewer’s interim manager.
The next area of trust comes from how the Cubs’ front office will construct the team’s roster. Many reporters and fans have been quick to criticize Epstein for allowing Carlos Zambrano to return to the team for 2012 season, though considering Zambrano is still under contract through the 2012, the Cubs; president of baseball operations was simply stating something that was true at that moment of time when he said last week that Zambrano will have an opportunity to “earn” his way back on the team. Essentially every player is evaluated at season’s end, and the front office determines if said player has “earned” his way back onto the team for the following season. Once Epstein has more conversations with Hoyer as well as the executives that know Zambrano (i.e. Randy Bush, Oneri Fleita, Tim Wilken, etc), there likely be a more definitive decision made on the starting pitcher’s future in Chicago.
Another starting pitcher whose future in Chicago is not certain would be Matt Garza. The idea of trading Matt Garza is a highly controversial one. The Cubs are only a year removed from sending top pitching prospect Chris Archer, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, catcher Robinson Chirinos, outfielder Brandon Guyer, and Sam Fuld to the Tampa Bay in exchange for Garza. Garza is under team control through the 2013 season, and with the starting pitcher being 27 thus entering the prime of his career, many teams will be inquiring on his availability. All indications are that Epstein and company are willing to trade Garza. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Texas Rangers are three teams that have already contacted the Cubs about Garza’s services. Remember last season that Rangers were the front-runners to land Garza before the Cubs swooped in at the last second. Given that the Rangers are in danger of leaving C.J. Wilson, it seems likely that they will once again pin their hopes on acquiring the former Rays’ starting pitcher. Though the Cubs would not be necessarily taking a step back if they did trade Garza this winter, as they are in a position to receive significant return for the pitcher.
To answer the question; Yes, Epstein and company should be trusted. The process is not going to happen overnight, but the Cubs will eventually get to the place where Epstein and Hoyer visualize the team being at it. That time will come once the team is a perennial post-season contender, and knocking on the door of the World Series on a regular basis. Whether it takes one year or all five years, the Cubs’ front office will prevail.