Chicago Cubs fans could hardly be blamed for feeling frustrated with the team’s front office following the 2018 season, which ended in disappointment.
After all, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s additions of Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood last winter proved nightmarish, while the subsequent firing of hitting coach Chili Davis and loss of pitching coach Jim Hickey has made things very tenuous for the Chicago Cubs.
It would be easy to be totally dissuaded by Epstein and Hoyer at this juncture. Their two latest big-money signings – Darvish and Jason Heyward – have hardly lived up the contracts they were given. The acquisition of Daniel Murphy in late August was not nearly enough to bolster an offense that struggled to put up runs in the second half.
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And now, the early inactivity in the current offseason has many fans feeling alarmed.
But despite all the evidence to the contrary, it would be foolish to underestimate Epstein and Hoyer or assume that they are leading the team in the wrong direction.
They took a chance on a struggling pitcher from Baltimore in Jake Arrieta and watched him blossom into a Cy Young Award winner, while simultaneously acquiring Pedro Strop in the process. They essentially flipped Ryan Dempster for Kyle Hendricks – who went on to become a league ERA leader in 2016.
And before you say “Well yeah but that was in during the rebuild,” consider the fact that Theo and Jed were able to convince a ruthless competitor like Jon Lester that a young team was ready to win now. The front office went after Ben Zobrist and was willing to deal Gleyber Torres for Aroldis Chapman to help get the team over the hump two years ago.
In one of the more underrated moves in franchise history, Epstein and Hoyer poached Dexter Fowler away from the Baltimore Orioles in 2016 on a one-year deal and watched as he blossomed into a clubhouse leader and franchise icon after his leadoff home run in Game 7 of the World Series.
They have made impact moves every offseason, both in the trade market and in free agency. And even if they don’t make a splash for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, you can expect Theo and Jed are working tirelessly to improve the ballclub and address team needs in any and every way.