Chicago Cubs shake up the front office looking to get back on top

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Cubs are shaking things up as the organization announced a myriad of front office changes that should hopefully help breathe life into the club.

Five years ago, the Chicago Cubs stood at the forefront of front office thinking. But in recent years, opponents have seemingly caught up – and even surpassed Theo Epstein’s team – and he’s focused on getting back on top moving forward.

Chicago shuffled around some front office personnel and made additional hires this week, which should put some fresh eyes on the Cubs from the Minor League players to the big league roster.

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Craig Breslow, the team’s new Director of Pitching, spent 12 years in Major League Baseball as a reliever, appearing in 576 games. He was originally hired by the Cubs organization this January as the team’s’ Director of Strategic Initiatives for Baseball Operations.

Chicago tasked Breslow with evaluating and implementing data-based processes throughout all facets of baseball operations. He also supported the organization’s pitching infrastructure and player development, as well.

Breslow pitched for the Padres, Twins, Athletics, Red Sox, Indians and Marlins in his career. The connection to the Cubs’ front office comes from his time with the Boston Red Sox in 2006.

Not only does Breslow have the pedigree from playing experience, he has a degree from Yale in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. In the 2016 offseason, Breslow started experimenting with the Rapsodo baseball system to analyze his mechanics and spin rate on his pitches.

The Cubs have fallen behind in the analytics department and Breslow’s new role should hopefully remedy that shortcoming.

A fresh set of eyes

Justin Stone, the team’s new Director of Hitting, worked for Elite Baseball, which is a training academy focusing on technology and the physical techniques of hitting. Stone has coached at Indiana State and worked at a private training academy for the White Sox before Elite.

Stone’s role is similar to that of Kyle Boddy, the founder of Driveline Baseball, a nationally-renown sabermetric data-driven baseball training center. The Cubs had interviewed Boddy for a position in the organization, but he elected to join the Cincinnati Reds, instead. Boddy was allowed to keep his position with Driveline while with the Reds, presumably the reason he accepted the job there over the Cubs.

Stone teaches approximately 3,000 players from across the country each year and teaches hitting, defense, pitching and catching at Elite.

Everyone (and rightfully so) is focused on Epstein’s ongoing managerial search. The team has reportedly narrowed down its list of candidates to David Ross and Houston Astros bench coach Joe Espada – with a potential additional candidate yet to be interviewed.

Ross was seen as a favorite for obvious reasons, having played with a lot of of team’s current players, but Espada reportedly blew the Cubs’ front office away in his recent interview.

Could the newfound focus on analytics with Breslow and Stone be a precursor to an Espada hire, given the Astros’ focus on analytics? The metrics are really an area the Cubs had really fallen behind the last three years, and the results showed on the field this year on the field with the sub-par base running and poor defensive positioning.

Epstein and company are really trying to catch up where they lost ground the last three years, and these two hires showed a deep commitment to embracing the analytics of baseball. Could Espada make it a trifecta of analytically-based hires?

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Matt Dorey was also promoted to senior director of player development after spending the last six seasons as the director of amateur scouting. Former senior director of player development, Jason McLeod, was promoted to senior vice president of player personnel back in September.

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