Cubs Rumors: Theo Epstein hasn’t committed to returning for 2021 season

Theo Epstein may be stepping away from the Cubs sooner than anticipated. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
Theo Epstein may be stepping away from the Cubs sooner than anticipated. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

Theo Epstein’s time with the Cubs may be drawing to an unanticipated end.

On his end-of-season Zoom call with the media, Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein acknowledged what we all knew: change was in the air for the organization – both in regards to the roster and the leadership in the front office.

The architect of two curse-breaking World Series championship teams has one year left on his current contract – and it has been widely assumed he’d spend 2021 handing things off to his heir apparent, Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer. But based on multiple reports, including one from NBC Sports Chicago’s Gordon Wittenmyer, that’s no sure thing.

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"The Cubs’ offseason remains in more limbo than usual at this point in the offseason, with team president Theo Epstein still said to be mulling whether to step down from the final, $10 million year of his contract during a time of deep cuts across all departments in the organization — including more than 100 layoffs in business and baseball operations at a time of steep pandemic-related financial losses."

The organization laid off more than 100 individuals this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the team’s financials. Owner Tom Ricketts, while undoubtedly appreciative of all Epstein has done for the Cubs, could look at tapping Hoyer to head up the baseball operations department as yet another way to save millions of dollars, as opposed to paying Epstein his final $10 million.

Perhaps Ricketts will go completely off-script and search for new blood outside the organization to replace Epstein. In a similar line of thought as noted above, going with an up-and-comer could be well-received by ownership given the obvious cost savings that would accompany such a move.

Chicago is a club very much in flux. The majority of its core – Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baezis entering their final year of team control. Assuming the Cubs pick up their option on Anthony Rizzo, he falls in the same bucket, as well. There are few reinforcements on the horizon in terms of top-tier prospects, and a rebuild seems all but guaranteed at this point.

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Should Epstein leave, his successor will be tasked with plotting a course for the future of the franchise – one that closes the door on what has to be considered one of the most successful runs of sustained success in Cubs history. Whether he calls it quits in the coming weeks or at the end of the 2021 campaign, one thing’s for sure: Epstein’s tenure has been an utter and absolute success.